On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he has asked Governor General Julie Payette to prorogue Parliament.
The announcement came after weeks of ongoing criticisms from opposition parties regarding the WE Charity scandal and the rumours of a growing rift with Former Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, as he announced his resignation on Monday.
According to the Prime Minister, in the coming weeks, the federal government will be plotting out and unveiling its roadmap out of the pandemic, which includes a throne speech to mark the beginning of a new session on September 23.
Prime Minister Trudeau also vowed that the prorogation will not impede the government’s COVID-19 response in the interim.
The prorogation will be the first time that Prime Minister Trudeau has taken that massive procedural step to after vowing when first elected not to use “prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances”.
A move that the federal Liberal party once accused former Prime Minister Stephen Harper of doing.
The announcement of Prime Minister Trudeau’s plans for prorogation comes almost seven years to the day of Mr. Harper’s 2013 prorogation amid the Senate expense scandal.
A prorogation will end the current Parliamentary session, ending all legislative business that has not passed.
In this case, it would mean halting all ongoing WE Charity committee probes should they still be underway when the prorogation comes into effect and wiping away the remaining pre-pandemic pieces of legislation.
Seven government bills are on the order paper and are set to die when the prorogation happens, including legislation to amend the Criminal Code to amend the physician-assisted dying law and to effectively ban conversion therapy.
There is also legislation proposing to set up new RCMP and CBSA oversight, as well as amending the oath of citizenship to recognize Indigenous rights.
However, bills and committee work can be reinstated with a motion during a new session.
The House of Commons had one final special sitting scheduled for Aug. 26— where emergency COVID-19 measures could have been advanced, such as the expected Employment Insurance revamp— before remaining adjourned until Sept. 21.
That is the date when parliamentary businesses were set to resume in earnest, with questions outstanding about the degree of COVID-19 precautions that will be in place and whether a continuation of the hybrid virtual and in-person sittings would resume.
A new throne speech and expected economic update will be key moments for the federal government to set out its reworked priorities after the pandemic paused or forced a reassessment of many of the initiatives promised by the Liberals during the 2019 federal election.
“Canada is at a crossroads,” said the Prime Minister on Tuesday, citing the ongoing struggle with COVID-19, the calls for action on systemic racism, and the economic disparities the pandemic has exposed.
“We have lots of work ahead of us.”
Bill Morneau resigns as Finance Minister and MP on Monday and will seek to lead OECD
On Monday afternoon, Bill Morneau officially announced his resignation as Canada’s Finance Minister and will also be stepping down as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Toronto Centre following his meeting with the Prime Minister.
“I met with the prime minister today to inform him that I did not plan to run again in the next federal election,” told the former Finance Minister to reporters Monday evening.
“It has never been my plan to run for more than two federal election cycles.”
Despite the rumours of a growing rift with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Morneau said he was not pushed out of the government, rather he said it was time for a new finance minister to carry Canada forward as it continues to battle the economic realities of the pandemic.
“Since I’m not running again, and since I expect that we will have a long and challenging recovery, I think it’s important that the prime minister has by his side a finance minister who has that longer-term vision,” said Mr. Morneau.
“That’s what led me to conclude during this time period that it’s appropriate for me to step down.”
In another surprise, Mr. Morneau said he wants to continue to serve and is putting in a bid to be the next secretary-general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Addressing the controversies and pressure to resign from being associated with the WE Charity scandals, Mr. Morneau expressed that he should have done things differently.
“I wish that, in hindsight, that we had done things differently around the WE Charity,” said Mr. Morneau, noting that he should have recused himself from discussions around the decision to task WE Charity with running the student grant program.
Prime Minister Trudeau issued a statement heaping praise on his former Finance Minister for his work since taking office in 2015:
“I want to thank Bill for everything he has done to improve the quality of life of Canadians and make our country a better and fairer place to live. I have counted on his leadership, advice, and close friendship over the years and I look forward to that continuing well into the future,” the statement said.
“Canada will vigorously support his bid to lead this important global institution that will play a critical role in the global economic recovery,” Prime Minister Trudeau added of Morneau’s OECD plans.
Federal Government’s Cabinet Mini-Shuffle: Deputy Prime Minister Freeland set to be Finance Minister
Prime Minister Trudeau began a major summer reset of his government with a mini-shuffle in positions which included adding new responsibilities to two of his most trusted ministers on Tuesday afternoon.
At Rideau Hall this afternoon, Chrystia Freeland, the former Foreign Affairs Minister serving as the Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, was sworn in as Canada’s newest Finance Minister.
Chystia Freeland will be taking over Bill Morneau’s position as Finance Minister following his resignation on Monday.
The historic and momentous occasion will see Chrystia Freeland as the first woman to take on the powerful role of the Finance Minister in Canadian history.
According to the federal government, Ms. Freeland will continue to retain her role as the Deputy Prime Minister in addition to being the Finance Minister of Canada but will be handing over her responsibilities for relations with the provinces to Dominic LeBlanc.
Mr. LeBlanc will be returning to his former post as the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister while also retaining his position as the President of the Queen’s Privy Council.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford welcomed Ms. Freeland’s appointment to the position of Finance Minister, telling reporters that he sent her a message of congratulations and committed to working with a minister he called “amazing”.
“There’s no better person that I want to work with than Chrystia Freeland,” said Premier Ford.
“She’s going to do an incredible job. She’s a good friend, and I can’t wait to start working with her to move our projects forward.”
In her historic new post, Chrystia Freeland will lead the safe restart and recovery of our economy and LeBlanc will work with provinces and territories “to ensure the well-being, health, and safety of Canadians from coast to coast to coast,” according to Prime Minister Trudeau’s office.
“As economies relaunch, we’re seeing COVID-19 reappear in places like Australia and New Zealand. It’s winter there now. Ours is still on its way and so we have to remain vigilant,” said the Prime Minister.
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