Aug 17, 2020
Canada Finance Minister Bill Morneau Resignation Speech Transcript
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced his resignation amid an ongoing charity scandal and investigation. Read the full transcript of his resignation speech here.
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Bill Morneau: (00:08)
I’d like to thank you for being here. In the last five years, our government’s worked tirelessly to build a more open, more equal and more prosperous Canada. We’ve accomplished a lot: one million jobs created in the first four years, more than a million Canadians pulled out of poverty, and historic steps towards a stronger, greener, and more inclusive economy. I firmly believe that more Canadians from all walks of life are closer today to achieving their dreams than when we took office, but we also know that this pandemic has created many obstacles to progress here and around the world. Canada tackled this crisis head on. While we didn’t get everything right, I know that the cost of inaction would have been far greater. Canadians are better off today because their federal government stepped in and decided to protect them. That work is far from over. There’s much more work to do as we transition to recovery.
Bill Morneau: (01:18)
I met with the prime minister today to inform him that I did not intend to run again in the next federal election. It’s never been my plan to run for more than two federal election cycles. As we move to the next phase of our fight against the pandemic and pave the road towards economic recovery, we must recognize that this process will take many years. It’s the right time for a new finance minister to deliver on that plan for the long and challenging road ahead. That’s why I’ll be stepping down as finance minister and as a member of parliament for Toronto Center.
Bill Morneau: (01:57)
No matter what, I know that with this liberal government, Canadians will be in good hands. I still intend to continue to serve and have decided to put my name forward to become the next Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The prime minister has given me his full support in this quest. I’ll be spending the next few weeks preparing for this bid. We’ve always said that Canada and the world needs more Canadian leadership, not less. I will come to this new challenge with the lived experience of having built a more inclusive and fair Canada.
Bill Morneau: (02:41)
Bill Morneau: (04:10)
I first got into politics because I believed it was the place I could make the biggest difference for people. As minister of finance, I worked to make an impact while holding the highest regard for the office and knowing the privilege that I had to fulfill that role. I want to thank the prime minister for giving me this life-changing opportunity. Together, we’ve put in place historic policies that have and will continue to shape the lives of Canadians: more money for hardworking families with the Canada Child Benefit, a more generous and secure retirement with the Canada Pension Plan, and the foundations for a strong and resilient economy.
Bill Morneau: (04:52)
We did it with the help of an outstanding public service, who demonstrated their talent and creativity time and time again, both before and during the pandemic. I want to thank in particular the officials at the Finance Department and the staff in my office for their work over these past five years. I want to thank the residents of Toronto Center. It’s truly been an honor to serve as your member of parliament. I also want to commend all my fellow members of parliament in my party and across party lines. Your work on behalf of Canadians is essential to our democracy. And finally, I want to thank my family. Politics is always difficult, especially for families. I could not have served Canadians without their support over these past five years. Thank you. Merci beaucoup.
Speaker 2: (05:46)
Thank you. [French 00:05:50] we will now be taking questions. [French 00:05:51] one question and one follow up. We will start with three questions over the phone. [French 00:00:05:59].
Speaker 3: (06:01)
Thank you. If you have a question, please press star one on your telephone keypad. [French 00:06:08]. First question, [French 00:06:13], Justin Lang, freelance. Please go ahead. [French 00:06:18].
Justin Lang: (06:19)
Hi, Minister. I’m wondering if you can tell us a bit about the differences that actually led to your resignation. Evidently, there was some specific policy concerns, other media reporting that it had to do with the size of the deficit, potentially a green transition. What reservations did you have about the prime minister’s plan that led eventually to you resigning?
Bill Morneau: (06:42)
Well, thank you for that question. I had a constructive conversation with the prime minister this morning. We have always worked together over the course of the last five years in a way that recognized the importance of vigorous discussion and debate to get to the best policies for Canadians. I’m proud of what we’ve done over the last five years, working to make sure that we have a more inclusive economy, that we have a greener economy, and I know that work will continue, and I’m looking forward and I’ll be watching very closely, and hopefully part of that by helping through the OECD, if I’m successful in that quest, to consider how we can face up to the next stage and the challenges facing Canada and all of us as we recover from this a challenging time.
Justin Lang: (07:25)
But surely the gaps must’ve insignificant if you are leaving your post halfway through the planned end of your political career. Do you have concerns about who’s going to replace you and what the prime minister’s kind of direction for that couple of years is going to be through this recovery?
Bill Morneau: (07:45)
Well, in fact, I’ve been thinking about this for a period of time. Obviously, I want to continue to serve. I know that the prime minister will think about the next choice for finance minister, and I’m confident that he’ll have a positive choice in that regard, so I’m looking forward to the future. I think that we’ve done great work together. We’ve been able to ensure that Canadians are better off, significantly better off in so many ways than they were before we came to office, and we know that now the next step is going to be a long and, yes, uncertain recovery, and we need a finance minister that’s going to be there for the longterm. And that’s why I think now is an appropriate time for me to think about next steps, which I’m doing tonight.
Speaker 2: (08:24)
[French 00:08:25]. Next question.
Speaker 3: (08:29)
Thank you. Next question. [French 00:08:30], HuffPost Canada. Please go ahead. [French 00:08:35].
Speaker 5: (08:34)
Thank you, Minister. Can you inform us a little bit more about the timeline? You say that you’ve been thinking about this for a period of time? When did you start thinking about a new job? And also the series of leaks over the last two weeks plus, how did they contribute to you deciding that you wanted to resign? Thanks.
Bill Morneau: (09:01)
Well, thank you. Well, first of all, I’ve always been thinking of how I can best serve, so that’s been my key consideration really from day one. And at this stage, I see that there’s going to be a need for a long period of time for the recovery, and we’re going to need a government that’s focused on that for this challenging time in front of us. So I think now is an appropriate time for me to step down from this role and think about how I can help more broadly. The past number of months have been extremely challenging for our government as we faced up to what has been an unprecedented issue that’s facing so many Canadians. I think that what we’ve done together, what we’ve come up with has been so critically important. The development of the CERB, the wage subsidy. These have helped millions of Canadians to face up to a challenging time, and now we need to think about that next phase. I’m confident that the prime minister and his team will do that, and I’m certainly looking forward, hopefully, to being supportive in another way.
Speaker 5: (10:03)
What do you think the prime minister should be looking for in a new finance minister to lead in the path of recovery?
Bill Morneau: (10:15)
I think that the decision on the next person for this role is the prime minister’s decision. I’m looking forward to being supportive of him in any way I can in that transition. What’s most important I think for Canadians is that they see this continued stewardship of the economy in a way that will support them through this challenging time and recognize that we have an opportunity to continue to ensure that Canada is a great place where people can all find the kind of opportunities that they want to find for themselves and their families. I’m confident that that’s what’s going to be the outcome of the next steps for the prime minister and his team pushing.
Speaker 2: (10:51)
[French 00:10:51]. Next question, operator.
Speaker 3: (10:54)
Thank you. Merci. The next question [French 00:10:56] is from Tonda MacCharles from Toronto Star. [French 00:00:10:59]. Please go ahead. Tonda MacCharles, please unmute your line.
Speaker 2: (11:18)
All right, so-
Tonda MacCharles: (11:18)
Sorry about that. Sorry. I’m here. I’m here. I’m here. I’m sorry. I was unmute. It’s the story of the pandemic. Can you hear me, Mr. Morneau?
Bill Morneau: (11:25)
I can. You’re off mute now, Tonda.
Tonda MacCharles: (11:26)
Thanks. I apologize. Mr. Morneau, can you clarify, were you asked by the prime minister to resign?
Bill Morneau: (11:36)
No. Tonda, this morning I went to the prime minister and I tendered my resignation. Obviously, I’m looking forward to a next set of opportunities, and I’m keenly interested in how the prime minister will continue the work we’ve done together over these last five years, and I’m confident that he will do that with the continued focus that he’s had on behalf of Canadians over the last five years.
Tonda MacCharles: (12:02)
I take your statement, but I would like to understand, did you, in the vernacular of a previous finance minister’s scenario, did you get quit, and if so, what was the tipping point?
Bill Morneau: (12:16)
Sorry, can you say that again? Did I get … Can you say that again?
Tonda MacCharles: (12:21)
Did you … Monsieur Chretien once said of Mr. Paul Martin, or we were told that he got quit, or Mr. Martin described it as that. Do you feel you were forced out by the revelation that Mr. Trudeau was turning to Mr. Carney and other sorts of matters like that? Were you effectively quit?
Bill Morneau: (12:39)
What I want Canadians to know is that the work that we’ve done together has been the work of a lifetime. For me, it’s been something that has been enormously rewarding personally. It’s been a real privilege to have this job, but like any job, there’s a time where you’re the appropriate person in the role and a time where you have to decide when you’re not the appropriate person in the role. 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, and so that’s what led me to conclude during this time period that it’s appropriate for me to step down. And I have every confidence that he will find a way for the next steps with a team that will be in there for the longterm and ready to do the hard work that we need to do to continue to support Canadians.
Tonda MacCharles: (13:26)
Speaker 2: (13:27)
Thank you. We will now be going over to the room. First question?
McKenzie Gray: (13:30)
Hi, Mr. Morneau. McKenzie Gray was CTV. You just referenced that you were no longer the appropriate person for the role of finance minister. Did the We scandal make it so that you were no longer the appropriate person for this job?
Bill Morneau: (13:43)
It’s important to recognize that I’ve been involved in philanthropy for many, many years, and that that role has continued. I wish that, in hindsight, we had done things differently around the We charity. As I’ve said, I think that it would have been more appropriate for me to recuse myself from that decision, but moving forward, I think that the most important thing is to think about where you can have the appropriate impact at the appropriate time. What I’m saying now is it’s appropriate for the prime minister to find someone with a longer term approach to being finance minister than I can give, since I’m not going to run again for federal office, and I think it’s also an opportunity for me to step forward into a potential next step with the OECD, and that would be a way that I could continue to serve.
McKenzie Gray: (14:36)
There were numerous reports that outlined a potential riff between you and the prime minister saying that you might not have wanted to spend as much money as the prime minister and others in the government wanted to do. Were there any major policy rifts between you and Mr. Trudeau?
Bill Morneau: (14:51)
Well, I think it’s really important to recognize, and my discussion with the prime minister this morning, we both recognized the necessary vigorous debate that comes between a finance minister and a prime minister. For that matter, between ministers and the prime minister. That’s the way you get to better policy outcomes, and I’m absolutely of the view that that vigorous discussion over the course of the last five years has led to better outcomes. Better outcomes during the course of our first term, better outcomes through the pandemic, so I’m looking forward to watching and to seeing that continued important policy discussion that will lead to great outcomes for Canadians.
Speaker 2: (15:31)
Sarah Sears: (15:33)
Thank you, Mr. Moreno. Sarah Sears, CBC News. Did you let down the prime minister and the government by not disclosing your travels with We?
Bill Morneau: (15:41)
No. In fact, my travels were always disclosed. The issue really was that I unfortunately did not get a bill for some of that travel and found that out obviously much, much later. Three years later, but what I’ve done is I’ve done my best. I’ve apologized for that and moved forward, and I know that the important work that we’re doing is more important than that problem that we had, and I know that from the prime minister’s standpoint, he’ll be looking to make sure that he can continue on the work and deal with that as is appropriate.
Sarah Sears: (16:18)
And to touch on the questions my colleagues have asked, what was it like to see the stories about you in the press this past week saying that you were at odds with the prime minister, and did those anonymous leaks to reporters make you feel pushed to make the decision today?
Bill Morneau: (16:33)
When you take on a role like the finance minister, you know that people are going to watch closely the role that you’re playing and your actions, and there’s always going to be a role for commentators to have a point of view. So this week was part of what it takes to be a minister of the crown, and I will look forward to, to watching politics from the outside and hopefully contributing in another way.
Speaker 2: (17:05)
Speaker 9: (17:05)
Bill Morneau: (17:10)
Speaker 9: (17:11)
Bill Morneau: (17:11)
Speaker 10: (17:13)
Bill Morneau: (17:15)
Speaker 10: (17:16)
Bill Morneau: (17:39)
As I said, I’m really proud of the work we’ve done over the course of the last five years. We’ve made a huge difference. We’ve come up with the lowest unemployment rates before the pandemic that we’ve seen in Canada. We’ve helped a million people get out of poverty in this country. The work in the pandemic, I think, has been absolutely instrumental in supporting people during a time of extraordinary challenge, so I’m proud of the work we’ve done together, and I’ll watch carefully to see how the prime minister continues to support Canadians in a time of great challenge.
Speaker 2: (19:27)
Thank you. Merci. [French 00:19:29]. Three last questions over the phone. Operator, [French 00:19:36].
Speaker 3: (19:37)
Thank you. Merci. Please press star one at this time if you have a question. [French 00:19:41]. First question. [French 00:19:50] is Jordan Press from the Canadian Press. Please go ahead. [French 00:19:56].
Jordan Press: (19:58)
Good evening, Minister. Just I wanted to ask you, last week, the prime minister essentially said he had full confidence in you. Can you explain what happened over the last week from the prime minister saying that to today? I mean, did you lose confidence in him or did he lose confidence in you?
Bill Morneau: (20:18)
I really appreciate the prime minister’s support both last week, but really over the last five years. We’ve had a great opportunity to work together. My decision today was really very much about thinking about the time that’s right for me, the time that’s right for all of us in the pandemic. I think it’s necessary to have a finance minister who has that longer term perspective to get us through a longterm recovery, and that really was what led me to go to the prime minister this morning and say that that was the step I wanted to take.
Speaker 3: (20:49)
You’re saying that you want someone to come in for the longterm, and yet you’re at the same time saying you’d like to be the next secretary general at the OECD. Can you just explain then why you should be in that role if you don’t see yourself being in a longterm position in this role and guiding this country through the worst economic crisis we’ve seen in generations?
Bill Morneau: (21:09)
I think that it’s really important for someone to want to be in this political role for the next period of time, and I think that period of time will be very challenging, so that is what I’m sure the prime minister is reflecting on as he thinks about the next finance minister. For me, the opportunity to contribute to the challenges that we’re going to face in the globe, the OECD is there at the center and thinking about issues like international taxation, the digital transformation in our world, thinking about how we can deal with the challenges that we will be facing as we get through this pandemic, so that would be a new and a different role. Of course, I’d be able to use the expertise gained as a finance minister for a G7 country having gone through enormous challenges to help in another way, so I’m looking forward hopefully to that opportunity, but I recognize it’s a competitive process. There will be countries looking for who can be best to fulfill that role, and I’m looking forward to that discussion with those countries as we think about that.
Speaker 2: (22:13)
Moderator, I’m sorry. We’ll have to cut this short. Thank you. [French 00:22:16].
Bill Morneau: (22:18)
Thank you very much. Thanks very much.