Canadian Finance Minister resigns amid reported rift with PM

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau has announced his resignation amid an ongoing scandal of accepting gifts from a charity organization and also a reported rift with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At a press conference in Ottawa on Monday night, Morneau said he told Trudeau that he was not going to contest in the next federal election and that he only ever intended to serve in two governments, reports Xinhua news agency.

Now is the “right time for a new Finance Minister” to manage a long and uncertain recovery as Canada rebuilds from the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, said Morneau, who had been in office since 2015.

“That’s why I’ll be stepping down as Finance Minister and as Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre,” he said.

Morneau denied he was asked to quit and said he had come to the conclusion that he was not the “most appropriate person” for the job.

Reating to the news, Trudeau praised Morneau for his relentless work to support all Canadians and create a resilient, fair economy that benefits everyone.

He said Canada would vigorously support Morneau’s bid to become secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the past week, reports surfaced that Trudeau and Morneau were at odds over environmental initiatives and pandemic relief spending.

The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement a week ago saying Trudeau had “full confidence” in Morneau.

Canada’s opposition parties have asked Trudeau and Morneau to resign over granting a student volunteer program to the WE Charity group that has close links to them and their family members.

Trudeau and his government have been under fire since announcing on June 25 that they were granting WE Charity a sole-sourced contract to run the now-halted student volunteer summer program of C$900 million ($664 million).

Due to public outcry over the contract, the charity and the Trudeau government announced on July 3 that they were ending the contract.

On July 13, Trudeau said he made a mistake in not recusing himself from cabinet discussions about granting the program to the charity group.

Also last month, Morneau said he had paid WE Charity back C$41,366 in outstanding expenses the organization covered for two trips his family took in 2017, and that his wife has made
C$100,000 in donations to the organization in recent years.

The parliamentary ethics commissioner was investigating both Trudeau and Morneau over whether they breached the Conflict of Interest Act in relation to the program with WE Charity.