Morneau resigns .. Freeland new finance minister .. Parliament prorogued until Sep 23 .. Canada outside Ottawa still on holiday

Aug 18th, 2020 | By | Category: In Brief
Results of latest Mainstreet Research federal poll, released August 17, 2020. LPC=Liberals, CPC=Conservatives, GPC=Greens.

[UPDATED AUGUST 21]. COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS’ CURRENT ISSUES NOTE. TORONTO, ON. AUGUST 18, 2020. 11 PM ET. Like others, it seems, we were somewhat surprised by Bill Morneau’s resignation as Canadian federal finance minister last night.

There had been reports that Mr. Morneau and Prime Minister Trudeau were having disagreements about the future of public finance in Canada.

But the prime minister had also earlier stressed his confidence in his finance minister. Mr. Morneau had recently basked in the glow of Canada’s AAA credit rating from S&P Global — the only G7 country apart from Angela Merkel’s Germany to be so honoured.

Yesterday we learned as well that an August 12 Mainstreet Research federal poll found Liberals 41%, Conservatives 29%, New Democrats 16%, Bloc Québécois 6%, Greens 5% — numbers which could mean a Trudeau Liberal majority government if another election were held today!

Direct Fiscal Response to COVID-19’s stress on national economies, as % GDP. SOURCE : Reserve Bank of Australia, August 2020.

So … as best we can make out, Justin Trudeau did not need to get rid of his finance minister, as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of the WE Charity controversy. Mr. Morneau’s own story is that he never intended to run in more than two federal elections (which he has now done), and the PM at this juncture needs someone with a longer-term commitment.

The news that Chrystia Freeland has subsequently been “sworn in as Canada’s new finance minister today, becoming the first woman to take on the powerful role,” may also suggest that there is something to reports on how Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau have disagreed about the next few years of Canadian public finance.

A chart from the Reserve Bank of Australia’s August 2020 Statement on Monetary Policy, eg, shows the Trudeau/Morneau Liberal Canada as number one in public spending to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, among 14 of the most prosperous national economies in Asia, Europe, and North America.

If the Bay Street business leader side of Bill Morneau was starting to worry more than the prime minister wanted about the ultimate financial implications of all this, the Chrystia Freeland who wrote a 2012 prize-winning book on Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else could prove a better fit for what the Trudeau Liberal government apparently still sees as the ongoing Canadian near future.

Whatever else, Justin Trudeau’s (and Chrystia Freeland’s and Dominic LeBlanc’s) press conference this afternoon confirmed that parliament will be prorogued until September 23, when the government will offer a new Throne Speech for dealing progressively (and “ambitiously”) with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be a confidence vote on this approach in the current minority parliament as well.

All this suggests to us that the government is taking Ottawa’s latest political bull by the horns. (At a time when most Canadians are still too preoccupied with summer holidays or lack thereof and whatnot to worry unduly about federal politics.)

Clouds over summer in the old city, somewhat west of the Honourable Bill Morneau’s old Toronto Centre riding. Photo by Michael Seward.

From what we can make out, the mainstream media reaction does suggest that many in the thick of the Ottawa scene today do not much like Justin Trudeau (including more than a few fellow Liberals?).

We also thought both PM Trudeau and his new Finance Minister Freeland looked somewhat different than usual at today’s press conference — possibly a sign of something about the latest iteration of the Canadian Liberal federal government first elected in October 2015.

Yet regardless of who wins the current Conservative leadership race, it still seems to us very hard to see just who or what else, among the available alternatives, could offer Canada a better federal government than the one it has right now.

Time (and even another election in the near future??) will tell if enough of the Canadian people finally come to the same conclusion as the 41% claiming they will vote Liberal in the latest Mainstreet Research poll!

UPDATE AUGUST 21 : Abacus Data has just published a new poll taken August 14-19 among 1500 Canadian residents. While not as positive for the Trudeau government as the latest Mainstreet poll, it does suggest that the “Liberals could win re-election based on these numbers.” The broad picture is Liberals 36%, Conservatives 30%, NDP 18%, BQ 6%, Greens 5%. And Liberals are ahead in Ontario (44%), Atlantic Canada (38%), BC (34%), and Quebec (33%). According to Bruce Anderson, after some disturbance at the height of the WE controversy, “Canadians generally seem to have returned their focus to everyday life, enjoying what’s left of the summer, managing life during COVID, the return to school, the future of the economy, the election in the US … Anxiety is high about many things, but skirmishing in Ottawa is not at the top of that list …”. For longer recent update lists see Polling Canada on “Last 6 Unique Polls” and Éric Grenier’s latest CBC Poll Tracker (as updated at 11:10 AM ET today).

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