In a statement, Interim Leader Candice Bergen said the longtime Abbotsford MP informed her of the decision earlier in the day, explaining he “would like to be able to offer more dedicated support” to Charest’s campaign team, which Fast is co-chairing.
“I want to thank Ed for his many years of service to our Party and our caucus,” Bergen said. “While he won’t be serving in an official capacity, I know Ed will continue to be a valued member of our team and caucus.”
Fast’s departure was met with shock in Conservative circles Wednesday night — particularly due to the timing.
The move came hours after Fast criticized comments made by Pierre Poilievre, the presumed frontrunner in the leadership race, about wanting to fire the Bank of Canada governor over the country’s high inflation rate.
“I’m deeply troubled by suggestions by one of our leadership candidates, that that candidate would be prepared to interfere already at this stage in the independence of our central bank,” Fast told reporters ahead of the party’s caucus meeting earlier Wednesday.
“We lose some credibility when we do this. It is fair to ask questions, to demand solutions to the skyrocketing cost of living. But we also have to respect the institutions that have been granted independence to ensure that they function apart from political interference.”
Charest and other Conservatives have also criticized the attack against Tiff Macklem as being out of line.
Fast endorsed Charest for the Conservative leadership in late March, but remained the party’s top critic on economic issues. He replaced Poilievre in the role after the Carleton MP decided to run for the leadership in February.
Several other members of the Conservative shadow cabinet have also endorsed leadership candidates — predominantly Poilievre — but have remained in their critic roles.
“The removal of Ed Fast is another blow to fiscal conservatives and moderates navigating a party that is increasingly polarized and divided,” said one Conservative source, who agreed to speak to Global News on the condition they not be named.
Bergen said a replacement for shadow finance minister will be announced shortly.
It will be “very interesting to see who replaces” Fast, the party source said, given how central economic issues are to the Conservative brand and how pressing they are amidst rising inflation.
A second senior source suggested the “progressives” in caucus are being pushed out and the party “is decidedly embracing the far right.”
Charest’s campaign spokeswoman, Michelle Coates Mather, called the news of Fast stepping down disheartening and said the team is “incredibly proud” to have his expertise on the campaign.
In a statement, Mather said Fast “spoke out to voice legitimate concerns against policies he felt would hurt the Canadian economy, investor confidence, and the market.”
Poilievre has dismissed previous criticism of his proposal to fire the bank governor as merely political elites attacking his message. He stuck to that theme in his response on Wednesday, saying the Bank of Canada governor has a mandate to keep inflation at two per cent.
“Ed Fast and Jean Charest would have no problem firing a waitress or welder for not doing their jobs. But they won’t do the same for a big shot banker whose failures have cost our people a fortune,” Poilievre said in a statement.
Fast has represented Abbotsford, B.C., since 2006, coming into Parliament two years after Poilievre was first elected in his Ottawa-area riding.
Other shadow critics have been vocal about their support for other leadership candidates.
Michelle Rempel Garner, the natural resources critic, has endorsed Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and is working for his campaign, which has recently pressed Poilievre to issue statements denouncing racists and white supremacists in the wake of a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo.
— With files from the Canadian Press