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In today's Morning Brief, we look at the speculation over Bill Morneau's future as finance minister. We also look at what Joe Biden's choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate means, and what it doesn't.

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Speculation abounds over Bill Morneau's future as finance minister

It's not too early to assess Bill Morneau's time as finance minister — an era that has been as eventful and perhaps even important as it has been ungraceful. But the question for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is whether the finance minister of the last five years is the right finance minister for the next, pivotal year, writes CBC Parliament Hill reporter Aaron Wherry.

Questions about Morneau's future had already been revived before news emerged that former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney was advising Trudeau on rebuilding the economy. As the Canada Student Service Grant program crumbled under the weight of the WE affair, some of the wreckage fell on the finance minister's head and, for the second time, Morneau found himself having to explain why he hadn't managed his personal affairs in an unimpeachable fashion.

The recent damage to Morneau's credibility might be difficult to overcome — it's possible the federal ethics commissioner will come back this fall with a ruling that Morneau violated ethics rules on at least one count. But the act of replacing one's finance minister in the midst of an economic crisis carries some risk too.

The burden on the finance minister over the next year could be significant, both internally and externally. The task of transitioning away from emergency supports and reforming employment insurance to handle a larger number of recipients will be fraught with the potential for trouble. Going into next year's budget, there will be difficult decisions to make about how new spending is directed and then those choices will have to be defended — as hard as 2020 has been, the task of beginning to shape the post-2020 world might be even more profound.

It's very easy to speculate that someone other than Morneau might be better equipped to deal with that. Liberals might be excited by Carney's resumé and star power, but there were Liberals who were excited about Michael Ignatieff too. Chrystia Freeland might seem like a leading candidate, but she also seems to be serving the prime minister well as his official deputy. Treasury Board president Jean-Yves Duclos, a former economist, might be a policy wonk's dream — and he has increasingly come to the fore as a spokesperson for the government — but it might be hard to imagine him interacting with Bay Street. 

Beyond the speculation and gossip, a wounded prime minister is looking to seize a unique moment and set a new agenda over the next year. His choice of finance minister will be no small part of that. Read more on this story here.

Streaking through the sky

(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

A meteor streaks across the night sky above a campsite in the Negev desert in southern Israel on Tuesday. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by the comet Swift-Tuttle. Last night was the peak of the meteor show, but it will run until August 26.

In brief

Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden's selection of Kamala Harris may not shake up the presidential race, but it will change history. Harris, a California senator, broke several barriers with Biden's announcement Tuesday. She's the first Black woman on a presidential major-party ticket. She's also the first first Asian-American, the daughter of an Indian-born cancer researcher. The choice has some pundits predicting record-high turnout among Black voters. But, as CBC's Alexander Panetta writes, Harris's presence may not actually make a difference in the election. A recent poll testing Biden's popularity alongside 12 potential running mates found no statistical difference. Read more analysis of Biden's choice of running mate here.

Watch | Joe Biden selects Kamala Harris as running mate:

Joe Biden selects Kamala Harris as running mate

2 years ago
Duration 3:20


This year's salmon run is shaping up poorly on B.C.'s Fraser River, with few fish returning so far and fears over the impact of a huge landslide that blocked the river to salmon last year and forced the installation of a $50-million system designed to carry fish past the obstruction. Fishing for salmon has also been curtailed in the waters near Vancouver and Victoria to provide more fish for endangered southern resident killer whales. The federal Fisheries Department offered a bleak assessment Tuesday, stating the total return of Fraser sockeye this year is expected to be approximately 283,000 fish, which would be a record-low return. In peak years, it can be more than 20 million. Sockeye are one of a number of salmon species, but returns of chinook, another type, are also predicted to be low. Read more on the salmon run here.

Watch | B.C. salmon fishers look for alternatives during bad year:

B.C. salmon fishers look for alternatives during bad year

2 years ago
Duration 2:00


With the Conservative leadership race entering its final 10 days, the party is vowing to hold a secure and transparent ballot-counting process amid the pandemic, while also keeping up the pressure in Parliament on Justin Trudeau's minority government over the WE controversy. Lisa Raitt — the former cabinet minister, a former leadership candidate herself three years ago and now co-chair of this leadership race — insists that despite the pandemic, the race went better than anyone could expect. The June convention had to be cancelled. Debates were organized while most of the country remained in lockdown. "We've got more members than ever," she says. "The four candidates sold 100,000 new memberships in the campaign." Raitt's focus now is on ensuring ballots are counted quickly, safely and transparently to avoid challenges or debate over the legitimacy of the results. The votes will be counted once the Aug. 21 mail-in deadline passes. Read more analysis on this from CBC's Chris Hall.

CBC News is breaking down need-to-know information on the pandemic based on questions sent via email to COVID@cbc.ca. Here, physicians offer advice and answer questions on back-to-school topics like distancing, health checks, safe nap times and when to stay home. Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious diseases physician at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said keeping school as safe as possible for kids to learn and socialize doesn't follow a set timetable. By necessity, she said, school plans can't be perfect and people won't follow all of the basics to the letter at all times. "If we don't do a better job of tracking and tracing, then some of these school plans … are going to fail, and we're going to see outbreaks and clusters we can't control," she said. Read our back-to-school Q&A here.

Watch | Schools may have to adapt with information about COVID-19 and kids:

Schools may have to adapt with information about COVID-19 and kids

2 years ago
Duration 2:03


Several records tumbled in a marathon NHL playoff contest last night. Brayden Point scored 10:27 into the fifth overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in their opening game of their conference quarterfinal series. The game was the fourth-longest in NHL history and saw Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo make a league-record 85 saves. The two teams combined for 151 shots — the most in an NHL game since the league began officially tracking the statistic in 1955-56. It took six hours, 13 minutes to complete the game at Toronto's Scotiabank arena, forcing Game 1 of the Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes series to be rescheduled to 11 a.m. today. Read the game report here.

Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: The COVID-19 pandemic has given many of us a new appreciation for good TV. With no nightlife, or festivals to keep us busy, Netflix is a new best friend for many of us. But it turns out, we may not be the only creatures taking refuge in our creature comforts. In northwestern Ontario, satellite dishes have been showing up atop beaver lodges near Red Lake and Rainy River First Nation. So, are the rodents turning to binge watching their favourite shows? Glynnis Hood, a professor of environmental science at the University of Alberta who has been studying beavers for more than 20 years, says they'll build a lodge with just about anything. But while they have the construction skills, the animals are lacking in the technical department. "I'm not sure if they could directionally install it in a way that they'd get a good shot of Downton Abbey," she said. "But otherwise, they could install it, but it would probably be covered in mud." Read here for the real story behind the satellite dishes.

Front Burner: Kamala Harris is Joe Biden's vice-presidential pick

On Tuesday, Joe Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, making history by choosing the first woman of colour to compete on a major party's presidential ticket.

Today on Front Burner, Washington Post political reporter Eugene Scott on what Harris brings to the Democratic Party's ticket, and what it might mean for Biden's chances against U.S. President Donald Trump come November.

Today in history: August 12

1908: The first Model T is built by Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Also known as the Tin Lizzie, it was introduced for sale to the public later in the year. Eventually more than 15 million of the cars were manufactured.

1977: The first space ship designed to be reused, the shuttle Enterprise, flies on its own for the first time in a glide test flight over California's Mojave Desert.

1992: After 14 months of negotiations, Canada, the United States and Mexico announce they have concluded the North American Free Trade Agreement. The continental trade deal took effect in 1994.

1994: The baseball season ends when players go on strike to fight owners' demands for a salary cap. At 74-40, the Montreal Expos had the best record in the majors. The World Series was cancelled for the first time in 90 years.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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