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Bill Morneau’s resignation highlights why Canada is in trouble

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Martin led the slaying of the budget deficit in the mid-1990s, and Flaherty wore the white hat as head of Canada’s fire brigade during the Great Recession. Morneau was handed no such opportunity: the prime minister was the daily face of the crisis response, even though it was clear that Morneau and his team at Finance were doing most of the work, at least on the economics of it all.

Then, out of nowhere, Bloomberg reported last week that Trudeau was taking advice from Mark Carney, the former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor. Rumours quickly spread to the pages of mainstream newspapers that the prime minister was losing confidence in his finance minister.

It was clear where this was all headed. On Aug. 17 at about 7:30 p.m. Ottawa time, Morneau, who said he got into politics to make a difference for common folk, announced he had resigned to run for secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based think-tank that counts a few dozen rich countries such as the U.S. and Germany as its members.

“Liberals are more lethal to Liberals than are any competing partisans,” Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s former principal adviser, tweeted.

Morneau’s resignation came with the usual speculation about how markets would react. These are worries from a time when the finance minister mattered. After Flaherty resigned in 2014, Harper replaced him with Joe Oliver, who had little impact. Morneau was just another front-bench minister. Unless Trudeau loosens the reins, Morneau’s replacement, Chyrstia Freeland, will have no more influence than her predecessor did.

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