Canadian finance minister quits amid Trudeau friction talks

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau removes his mask as he prepares to announce his resignation. (AP pic)

OTTAWA: Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced his resignation on Monday amid reports of friction with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and after coming under fire for his ties to a charity tapped to run a student grant programme.

Morneau said he would not run for parliament again and would instead seek, with the support of Trudeau, to become the next secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Trudeau had expressed confidence in his finance minister just last week. Morneau, 57, has been in the job since Trudeau’s Liberals took power in late 2015.

Morneau and his team have pushed back against other Cabinet ministers about how much pandemic funding was needed, including to what extent the post-lockdown recovery could be helped by investing in environmental projects, sources had told Reuters.

“While we didn’t get everything right, I know the cost of inaction would have been greater,” Morneau said, before adding he met with Trudeau earlier “to tell him I do not intend to run again in the next election”.

Trudeau, who campaigned on a platform to tackle climate change, believes the 2021 budget should have an ambitious environmental element to start weaning the heavily oil-dependent economy off fossil fuels and he recently hired former Bank of England governor Mark Carney as an informal adviser, aides say.

Possible replacements for the key post are likely to be Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and President of Canada’s Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos.

In a statement, Trudeau thanked Morneau for his service over the past five years.

“Canada will vigorously support his bid to lead this important global institution that will play a critical role in the global economic recovery,” Trudeau said of Morneau’s bid to head the OECD.