Public financial management | The Morneau-Trudeau relationship was strained from the start

(OTTAWA) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his former finance minister Bill Morneau had a deep disagreement over the management of public finances in the first months after the Liberals took office in 2015.

Posted at 7:00 am.

Joel-Denis Bellavance

Joel-Denis Bellavance
The Press

So the breakup between the two men was almost inevitable. It finally came in August 2020, when Bill Morneau resigned as Finance Minister after months of tension between him and the Prime Minister over the sharp increase in federal government spending during the COVID pandemic.- 19.

Unpublished details about the rocky relationship between the two men can be found in a new book written by Marc-André Leclerc, former chief of staff to former Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

In this book, titled Political affiliations and published in Éditions du Journal, Mr. Leclerc explains in detail the work done behind the scenes by close associates of prime ministers and ministers, in Ottawa and in Quebec City. It offers a unique entry into the lives of these political employees who know all about the daily lives of the elected officials they surround themselves with.

In the case of Bill Morneau, Mr. Leclerc obtained confidences from Robert Asselin, a former close collaborator of the minister. A first major disagreement arose between Justin Trudeau and the country’s main fundraiser in the first budget, presented in the spring of 2016, because of the Liberal election promise to keep the retirement age at 65 instead of bringing it back this. of 67, according to the decision of the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper. This measure, which caused controversy when it was adopted in 2012, will be implemented in 2029.

In the campaign, we promised to restore the Old Age Security pension to 65 years. Minister Morneau doesn’t want to know anything. He saw the costs associated with this measure. He repeatedly insisted on telling her not to do it. Prime Minister Trudeau decided to do it anyway.

Robert Asselin, a former close associate of Minister Bill Morneau, of Political affiliations

Mr. Asselin served as Budget Director in the office of Mr. Morneau for two years. So he worked closely with the Minister of Finance to create the first two budgets of the Trudeau government during his first mandate.

Early disagreements

The second budget plan, filed by Mr. Morneau in March 2017, creating more tension between the minister and the prime minister. This time, the confrontation is over a $7 billion spending increase to fund various measures. “There has been an epic battle between Minister Morneau, myself and Prime Minister Trudeau’s office. On the net, in the 2017 budget, there is no new spending. Mr. Morneau has succeeded. This is a legacy to be proud of said Mr. Morneau. He emerged victorious from the war,” Mr. Asselin told Marc-André Leclerc.

Last week before the budget, an estimated $7 billion was cut in spending. Mr. Morneau put his foot down and said, “I won’t accept that.” For him, it is unacceptable, it is too much. He thought it was a bad idea to continue spending at this level.

Robert Asselin, a former close associate of Minister Bill Morneau, of Political affiliations

It is normal for tensions to arise between the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. But usually these tensions don’t arise so early in the first term. For example, former prime minister Jean Chrétien and his finance minister Paul Martin enjoyed a good working relationship during the fight against the deficit in the 1990s. , in 1999, their relations became more difficult because of the ambitions of Mr. Martin, who is impatient to become Prime Minister.

In June, Mr. Morneau broke his silence by giving a speech in which he was very critical of his former government. He accused the Trudeau government of being more concerned with image than substance when it comes to developing and implementing economic policies. Furthermore, he argues that the Trudeau government has put a lot of effort into redistributing the nation’s wealth and little into creating it.

Mr. Morneau must return to the charge at the beginning of next year by publishing a book on his years in the Trudeau government.

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