Another whirlwind day in Ottawa as Chrystia Freeland was sworn in as Canada’s new finance minister, the first woman to hold that portfolio. Freeland, who helped negotiate the new NAFTA deal with Mexico and the United States, will have her hands full, as the Liberals are dealing with the biggest budget deficit since the Second World War.
Freeland is taking over from Bill Morneau, who resigned Monday after the WE Charity scandal engulfed him and Prime Minister Trudeau. Both men have connections to the charity, which was awarded a sole-source contract to run a student-volunteer program. Morneau and Trudeau are being investigated by the ethics watchdog.
Freeland’s gig as intergovernmental affairs has been lifted from her shoulders, but she will continue serving as Deputy Prime Minister.
With the loss of his finance minister and the WE scandal still very much alive Trudeau is expected to seek a reset while continuing to navigate the pandemic.
In addition, Trudeau asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to prorogue Parliament until September 23. She has agreed.
The Prime Minister said the time will be used to design a roadmap out of the pandemic, which will include a throne speech to mark the beginning of a new legislative session.
Suspending all House of Commons business means several committee probes into his government and the WE Charity controversy will be temporarily halted.
Bringing in a new throne speech is risky business for the Liberals. If there is a vote on the speech, it would be a confidence vote in the government, as would any vote on the budget or economic statement. The opposition parties could choose to bring down the government.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet warned Tuesday at a caucus retreat that his party would vote against a throne speech if Quebec did not receive greater health transfers.
The New Democrats do not appear eager to dethrone the Liberals. Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party will focus on demands such as a $12-billion investment in child care, including an immediate $2 billion investment so parents–particularly mothers–can go back to work.
However, Singh left the door open to putting the Liberals down if there was more misbehaving on their part.
“If the Liberal government continues to focus on helping their close friends instead of helping people … then we’ll have to look at all options,” he said.
Singh pointed out both Trudeau and Freeland were at the table for the WE student grant deal and the SNC-Lavalin affair.