Cabinet Reshuffle

Update:Chrystia Freeland named Canada’s first female finance minister

Canadian minister Chrystia Freeland addresses the media February 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico
Chrystia Freeland is one of PM Justin Trudeau’s most trusted ministers

Canada’s deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland has been named finance minister following a Cabinet shuffle.

Her appointment comes after Bill Morneau suddenly quit the job amid pressure from opposition parties.

One of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most trusted ministers, Ms Freeland, 52, will become the first woman to hold the position in Canada.

In addition to the shuffle, Mr Trudeau is suspending Parliament until 23 September.

It will then reconvene for a Speech from the Throne, where Mr Trudeau’s government will formally unveil its legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary session. The speech will give his government the opportunity to present “our roadmap out of the pandemic”, he said in Ottawa.

Canada is going through its worst economic crisis since the Second World War due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Freeland has previously held several high-level cabinet positions, including the international trade portfolio.

As foreign minister she helped renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement – or Nafta – with the US and Mexico.

The former journalist was first elected as a member of parliament (MP) in 2013.

Another close Trudeau ally, veteran Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc, takes over Ms Freeland’s role overseeing relations between the federal and provincial and territorial governments in the shuffle.

Mr Trudeau will be proroguing parliament until this autumn. 

Proroguing ends the parliamentary session, allowing the government to reset its priorities. 

Chrystia Freeland is sworn-in as finance minister at Rideau Hall as Justin Trudeau looks on
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was sworn-in at Rideau Hall

During this period, there are no sittings in the House of Commons or the Senate. That means parliamentarians do not hold debates, sit on committees or vote on laws.

It’s not uncommon for a government to prorogue parliament at some point between elections – but its use has been controversial in the past. 

Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer accused Mr Trudeau on Tuesday of “walking out on Canadians” amid a pandemic and of “shutting down” parliamentary committee probes into the WE Charity controversy. 

Mr Morneau and Mr Trudeau are facing ethics investigations over their handling of a contract to administer a pandemic relief programme for student volunteers, which was given to the WE Charity.

Both had ties with the charity and have apologized for failing to recuse themselves from related discussions. WE pulled out of the contract in July.

The prime minister said there will be “ample opportunities” for opposition parties to put questions to the government about the controversy next month.

Mr Trudeau has in the past criticized the former Conservative government for its use of prorogations when it was in power. 

On Monday, Mr Morneau said he was resigning from his position in the Liberal party cabinet and his role as MP for his Ontario riding, Toronto Centre.

He is facing conflict-of-interest allegations amid a charity ethics scandal, and there were reports of a rift between him and the prime minister over how to handle the economic recovery.

Mr Morneau said the WE Charity affair did not prompt his decision to resign, adding he will seek to be the next secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

He said his successor should have a “longer term perspective” as Canada navigates the struggling economy.

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