Canada’s Trudeau to tap ally Freeland as finance minister

Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attends a news conference as efforts continue to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday will tap Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist and his most trusted ally, to be his new finance minister after Bill Morneau resigned, a government source told us.

Freeland, 52, will be the first woman to hold the job. Her experience negotiating a new North American trade deal and her relationships with provincial premiers make her a good choice, the source said, confirming earlier reports by CTV and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC).

Morneau, a multi-millionaire and former business executive, held an impromptu news conference late on Monday to announce his resignation amid friction with Trudeau over spending policies, and after coming under fire for his ties to a charity tapped to run a student grant program.

Freeland, who is considered Trudeau’s most likely successor as Liberal Party leader, spearheaded the negotiation of the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade pact as Canada’s foreign minister and minister for international trade in Trudeau’s previous cabinet.

Now she will be tasked with reviving an economy crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the budget deficit this fiscal year forecast to hit C$343.2 billion ($253.4 billion), which would be the largest shortfall since World War Two.

“Freeland does not have the business background of her predecessor, but she managed the ministry of foreign affairs file remarkably well, including dealing with the difficult renegotiation of free trade with the United States,” said Craig Alexander, chief economist with Deloitte Canada.

“Markets will likely anticipate that the new minister of finance will work exceedingly well with the prime minister,” Alexander said.

The Canadian dollar notched its strongest intraday level in nearly seven months at 1.3148 per U.S. dollar, or 76.06 U.S. cents, amid broader declines for the greenback.

Freeland also holds the intergovernmental affairs portfolio, which now probably will have to be given to someone else.

Trudeau will suspend the current parliamentary session and then bring legislators back in October to outline his agenda, the government source said. The CBC said there would likely be a new budget in the autumn, Canadian Broadcasting Corp said.

Before entering politics in 2013, Freeland worked with several media companies, including the Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, and Reuters News.

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