Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried Tuesday to shut down speculation that he’s about to fire his finance minister, saying he has full confidence in Bill Morneau and that any reports to the contrary are false.
Trudeau’s office took the unusual step of issuing a statement in support of Morneau as rumours about the minister’s imminent departure from the crucial finance post reached a fever pitch on Parliament Hill.
For several weeks, opposition parties have been calling for Morneau’s resignation over allegations that he had a conflict of interest in the WE Charity affair. Morneau and Trudeau are both facing investigations by the federal ethics watchdog.
But news this week that Mark Carney, a former governor of both the Bank of Canada and Bank of England, is helping to advise Trudeau on the post-pandemic economic recovery fuelled speculation that Morneau is about to be replaced as finance minister.
In the statement Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office praises Morneau’s record, including his “lead role” in creating emergency aid programs to help individuals and businesses survive the economic shutdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since we formed government, Minister Morneau has worked relentlessly with all his colleagues, and closely with the prime minister, to deliver critical support for Canadians to build a strong and resilient economy,” it said.
“In particular, Minister Morneau played a central role that saw Canada develop one of the best economies in the G7, a million new jobs over the first mandate, generational changes to the CPP, the lowest unemployment rate in Canadian history, and over a million Canadians lifted out of poverty.”
The statement said Morneau is continuing his important work of helping Canadians survive the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Of course the prime minister has full confidence in Minister Morneau and any statement to the contrary is false. The prime minister knows that Minister Morneau and the entire team of cabinet ministers will keep doing the work that Canadians rely on to get them through this pandemic.”
Earlier Tuesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said it mattered little to him whether Morneau or someone else serves as finance minister under Trudeau.
“It really doesn’t matter, making a trade for Bill Morneau, when you’ve got a prime minister that has such a lack of ethics embroiled in so many scandals,” Scheer told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa.