Politics

Who's in line to replace Morneau as Trudeau's finance minister

Bill Morneau's resignation as finance minister opens the door to one of the most coveted seats at the Liberal government's cabinet table.

Freeland, Duclos touted as potential successors to lead Canada's financial recovery

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted the resignation of his finance minister, Bill Morneau. Who comes next? (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Bill Morneau's resignation as finance minister opens the door to one of the most coveted seats at the Liberal government's cabinet table.

Morneau insisted on Monday he was not pushed out by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying it was time for a new finance minister to carry Canada forward in the economic post-pandemic recovery.

But University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman said he sees Morneau as a "sacrificial lamb" in the ongoing WE Charity controversy engulfing the Liberal government.

"By firing Morneau, Trudeau is hoping to take the attention off himself," he said.

Morneau and Trudeau did not recuse themselves from cabinet talks on awarding the $900-million deal to run the summer program to WE Charity, even though they had family links to the organization. Morneau also revealed to the Commons finance committee in July that WE Charity had covered $41,000 in costs for trips he and his family took in 2017 to Ecuador and Kenya to view the organization's humanitarian work. He subsequently reimbursed the costs.

"I don't think his departure was a product of policy differences, although the prime minister's office would like to make it so appear," Wiseman said.

Wiseman said when the government announced last week that former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney was "advising" Trudeau, that signalled that Morneau would soon be gone.

For his part, Morneau said the timing of his resignation was tied to future opportunities and changing the reins for his department, and said he hopes to become the next secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

So who might replace Morneau as Canada's next finance minister?

Chrystia Freeland

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in May. Freeland has already held some of the government's highest-profile portfolios. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

As Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, Freeland is one of Trudeau's most trusted cabinet members.

The former financial journalist has also served as foreign affairs minister and minister of international trade, working to negotiate the revamped North American free trade agreement.

Penny Collenette, a University of Ottawa adjunct law professor and former senior Liberal staffer, noted Freeland would be the first woman finance minister, and is very "in sync" with the prime minister. 

"Whomever takes the position is going to have some very tough months, if not years, ahead of them," Collenette said.

Daniel Béland, a political scientist at McGilll University and director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said Freeland appears to have the full confidence of Trudeau and is very effective in her current roles.

"But she is already dealing with many key files and her moving to Finance could create significant transition issues for the entire Trudeau government," he said.

Jean-Yves Duclos

President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos is a trained economist. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Treasury Board President Duclos has more academic credentials than Bay Street business experience, with a doctorate in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Before entering politics, he worked as a professor at the University of Laval.

But Collenette said Duclos should be high on the list of contenders, calling him "dignified and unflappable."

Béland said Duclos is a "top-notch economist" who is highly competent, but not someone who would create a "wow effect" like former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.

Mark Carney

Former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney is serving as an economic adviser to the prime minister during the pandemic and has long been touted as a possible finance minister (Chris J Ratcliffe/Pool Photo via AP)

Carney followed up his stint at the Bank of Canada by becoming governor of the Bank of England and has most recently been serving as the United Nations' special envoy on climate action and climate finance. His appointment as Trudeau's financial adviser during the pandemic reignited rumours he could be in line for the finance minister's post.

Wiseman said by convention, Carney could be appointed to cabinet if he declares he is running for a seat (there is an open seat in the Toronto riding of York Centre due to a Liberal MP's recent resignation, not to mention Morneau's own seat in Toronto Centre).

But while Carney's domestic and international economic expertise make him a solid contender, senior government officials were insisting Monday on background that he is not getting Morneau's job.

François-Philippe Champagne

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne speaks with the media following caucus on Parliament Hill in March. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Now Trudeau's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Champagne was formerly parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance. He also served as international trade minister and infrastructure and communities minister, both economic portfolios.

With extensive experience in economic portfolios and a record as a cabinet performer, Champagne could be considered a contender for the finance post.

Watch | Bill Morneau's breaking point | At Issue:

Bill Morneau’s breaking point | At Issue

The National

10 months ago
10:24
The At Issue panel discusses what may have been Bill Morneau’s breaking point that led to his resignation and weighs in on who might be in line to replace him. 10:24

with files from David Cochrane and Chris Hall

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