Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland will be sworn in as Canada’s new finance minister later today, according to several reports.
The change comes just one day after Bill Morneau suddenly resigned from the role on Monday. For several weeks, opposition parties had been calling for Morneau’s resignation over allegations that he had a conflict of interest in the WE Charity affair.
Freeland is a former journalist who has written extensively about the global economy, including the best-selling book “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.”
The move means that Freeland will become the first female finance minister in Canada’s history.
According to The Canadian Press, multiple sources have said that Freeland will remain as deputy prime minister as she adds the finance portfolio to her already packed list of responsibilities. She will, however, handoff her role with intergovernmental affairs to Dominic LeBlanc, who previously held the position.
The Liberals didn’t want to let the crucial post go vacant for long when the country is mired in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and running up unprecedented deficits – both of which could deepen this fall if Canada is hit with a second wave of the novel coronavirus.
Freeland steps into a role where she will face a serious challenge as the country charts its way through the most difficult economic circumstances since the Great Depression.
She will have the difficult task of managing a COVID-19 recovery that is still very much underway, with more than 40 per cent of the three million workers who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic still unemployed as of mid-July.
Fewer than one-third of the 4.7 million Canadians who were receiving the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the beginning of August would qualify for Employment Insurance when the CERB ends on Sept. 26, making the transition to EI another hurdle.
Meanwhile, the spectre of protectionism continues to loom large after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum earlier this month – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also harbours protectionist sentiments, which could further complicate trade relationships.
The former Finance Minister, Morneau, announced last night he was leaving the Finance post following much speculation about a growing rift between him and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well.
Both Morneau and Trudeau are embroiled in ethical investigations for not recusing themselves from a decision to award a $900 million student grant contract to WE Charity despite both having close ties to the organization.
One of Morneau’s daughters works for the organization, another has spoken at its events and his wife has donated $100,000. Morneau also revealed last month that he had repaid WE some $41,000 in expenses for trips he and his family took in 2017 to view two of its humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya.
Despite all the speculation, Morneau cited that his decision to resign was based solely on that he doesn’t intend to run for re-election.
Morneau emphasized in his press conference on Monday that he believes that the finance minister must be someone who will be around for the long, hard road to recovery ahead.
The Trudeau government is also planning a cabinet retreat in mid-September with the intention of proroguing Parliament and presenting a pandemic recovery plan in a throne speech in early October.
With files to the Canadian Press.