(PM) – Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced his resignation on Monday from both Cabinet and as a member of parliament, and will now prepare to run for secretary general of the influential Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“I met with the prime minister today to inform him that I did not plan to run again in the next federal election,” Mr. Morneau said, explaining he never planned to run beyond two election cycles and felt it was time for a new finance minister that will be there in the long term amid post-pandemic economic recovery.
Mr. Morneau has been under pressure to depart cabinet ever since the revelation that he forgot to repay C$41,366 in travel expenses that were covered by WE Charity, the organization at the centre of an ethics scandal that has embroiled not only himself but also the prime minister.
Mr. Morneau’s announcement that he will vie in the next OECD election came with the news that he has the prime minister’s support in the future campaign. The second-last OECD secretary general was Canadian and served from 1996 to 2006.
The prime minister expressed his thanks to Mr. Morneau’s service in a statement, acknowledging his work in the five years since he came into the role after the 2015 federal election when the Liberal Party took power.
Mr. Trudeau met with Mr. Morneau earlier on Monday amid apparent disagreements over how to handle coronavirus aid spending and plans to tackle climate change, according to reporting from Reuters news agency and local sources.
The contention came with Mr. Trudeau aiming to fulfill platform promises on the environment that could potentially help with post-pandemic economic recovery while Finance Minister Bill Morneau pushing for a more conservative approach, as reported by the Globe and Mail.
The Liberal prime minister, who governs with a minority that needs the support of opposition parties to pass legislation, has faced ethics questions from the handling a multi-million-dollar deal with a charity to distribute funds to Canadian youth through a volunteer program. However, Mr. Trudeau has also experienced a boost in polling amid the pandemic.
Mr. Morneau has also faced the same, if not stronger, backlash after the pair did not recuse themselves from a decision to hand WE Charity a $900-million student grant program ahead of the summer months when many students would be working. Both ministers have family members who have been paid for working for the charity.
Canadian media have widely reported that Mr. Trudeau hired former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who also served the Bank of Canada during the 2008 recession, as an informal advisor.
This has sparked speculation the future of Mr. Morneau’s service in the finance position, on top of calls by critics for the finance minister to step down due to the ethics affair.
Though he has the most experience to lead the Department of Finance in the Cabinet, Mr. Morneau could be replaced by Mr. Carney, who would need to acquire a seat in the House of Commons to take on the role.
Despite the rumblings of a Cabinet shuffle a year before a potential by-election, a spokesperson for Mr. Trudeau said Tuesday that the prime minster has “full confidence” in Mr. Morneau, who Reuters reports is concerned by significant budget deficits amplified by pandemic spending.
Canada’s budget deficit is forecast to hit C$343.2 billion, the largest shortfall since the Second World War reports Reuters, in this fiscal year. Total coronavirus support is nearly 14 percent of gross domestic product.