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Bill Morneau discusses his book, differences with PM Trudeau

Bill Morneau discusses his book, differences with PM Trudeau


Hi there and welcome to question period on this Sunday January 8th today an exclusive interview with Canada’s former Finance Minister I think it was pretty inevitable that uh that five years for me was a great run um but it was time to move on and he’s spilling the tea on his relationship to Justin.

And why he left a job he says he loved hear from Bill Morneau in moments and the debut of our Sunday strategy session with Corey tonight Kathleen Monk and Scott Reed they’re standing by to react to What Morneau tells us then the Prime Minister heads to Mexico this week for the North American leaders Summit a terrate with U.S President Joe Biden is.

On the agenda I think we have to be aware of what’s Happening down here we’ll ask Canada’s ambassador to the U.S what the Prime Minister wants out of that meeting just ahead first though Libby to introduce myself I’m vashi kapelos and I am honored to be sitting.

In this chair today and each Sunday going forward I grew up watching and loving this show I know I’m stepping into some big shoes Great Canadian journalists like Pamela Wallen Craig Oliver Bob Fife and of course Evan Solomon people I respect and admire you have my word I’ll work as hard as I can to live up to the example they’ve set so.

Let’s get started because we have a great program for you today up first our exclusive interview with Bill Morneau Canada’s former Finance Minister has a new book coming out January 17th and it’s called where to from here a path to Canadian Prosperity just over two years ago Morneau resigned following leaks to the press that he and the Prime Minister.

Were at odds at the time Morneau said he was leaving to make a bid to lead the oecd and international organization this book though tells a different story you start this book off uh in chapter one called conversation in an empty room you’re referencing the conversation that you had with the Prime Minister when you told him you would be leaving your.

Position as Finance Minister it’s not something that you’ve talked much about before this book you write that I was walking away from a job I had loved in in of course you’re referencing all those leaks it followed basically a number of leaks suspected you know from the prime minister’s office to a number of media.

Outlets that described you know a relationship between the two of you fraught with tension and that the clashes over covet policy had just become too great essentially the truth was you write though that there were differences but they would have been reconciled or should have been why weren’t they.

Well let me start by saying congratulations on your new show thank you it’s really fun to be your first guest uh it’s been a long time so I’m happy to be here uh you know thinking back it’s natural that there’s tension between a finance minister and a prime minister in fact there should be I mean there really needs to be that tension.

And with us there was a healthy tension during the entire time that we were in office together I think what happened during covid was you know it was an intense pressure cooker of an environment we came to very much the consensus early on that we needed to support people and do it in a in a really significant way and then as we.

Moved farther along in covid you know myself and the Department of Finance were thinking about you know how do we move out of this how do we taper the support and I think the natural tension there was the Prime Minister and his office were much more focused on you know how do they give confidence to Canadians so that was quite a difference.

Of opinion and really led to a situation where the sustainability of our relationship ship was was not there and so we got to some tough moments and that was the challenge when you reference those tough moments and I’ll get into some of the more specifics about how you describe them how far was the gulf during covet.

Between you and the prime minister I think in the early days we were very aligned we realized we needed to massively support people they were off work they didn’t have access to you know day-to-day money to support their their families and then as we got further along in covid what we were really trying to do with Department of Finance.

Was think about how do we taper these benefits how do we how do we make sure that we come out of this supporting the right people but taper it in a way that ensures that our economy can remain strong so so we diverged as we got farther along and and that that tension you know at the end of the day the prime minister is in charge not the finance.

Minister so that tension led to some pretty big challenges in the those challenges you get more specific on during the book on page 241 you describe discussions about the business subsidy and how you had presented a whole package of research done by yourself in your department and you had the feeling that there was an agreement made and.

Then the next morning an announcement was made that didn’t align in any way with what you thought had been agreed to you called it one of the worst moments of my political life describe that for us that moment for us in more detail if you could well first of all I’m impressed that you read to page 241 I went all the way to the edge.

Group you know my goal all the way through my time in office was really how do we deal with the economy that’s going to create long-term Advantage for the country so opportunities for future and so being fiscally prudent was always a big part of what I wanted to what I wanted to ensure we were doing as as Minister of.

Finance so I think in a moment where I saw us taking decisions that were were more significant than I thought we needed you know it was you know frankly extremely frustrating and so it’s not a it’s not a new thing between Finance ministers and prime ministers that there’s tension and five years working together is a pretty long time but I.

Think in that moment you know it started to sow the seeds of of a challenge that we just weren’t going to be able to overcome do you think you would have resigned even without those leaks I think that what we saw was that it became unsustainable so the the differences of opinion uh they led us to.

To have conclusions around whether we could work together that were mutual and so whether it was about leaks or whether it was about that difference in Vision I think it was pretty inevitable that uh that five years for me was a great run but it was time to move on when you talk about those tensions though and I just want to make sure.

We sort of describe how you describe them in in the book adequately because if they reach a point where you no longer feel you can occupy that position or you no longer want to work with the prime minister they’re not minimal right uh it the way that you describe for example the difference in your approach and the.

Prime ministers during the pandemic we lost the agenda During the period when the largest government expenditures has a portion of GDP were made in the shortest time since the Advent of World War II calculations and recommendations from the Ministry of Finance were basically disregarded in favor of winning a popularity contest.

That’s a pretty big deal your view was that the finance ministers and the finance department’s recommendations on fiscal policies were disregarded because of what how you know because of what what do you think well I think what happened was to be fair to both sides but the Prime Minister and his team were trying to do.

Appropriately is ensure that Canadians had confidence that they could deal with an enormous Challenge and we shared that goal but this secondary goal for the Department of Finance was to make sure that as we gave that massive support that we reduced it at a time that made sense so so the timing and the scale of the support we had a difference of.

Opinion you talk about them wanting to inspire confidence and I understand that perspective it was a time when many Canadians were worried about the fact that they might not have a job or that they you know about their health or their ability to work but you don’t just describe it as that in in the book right you you describe.

And in that last sentence you know winning a popularity contest in your view is the prime minister too focused on how the public perceives what he and his government do I think one of the important threads of my book and and I hope people will read it and I hope this this will help people to to pick it up is that the challenge.

Of our modern day government is the 24 7 News cycle is something that people have an incentive to react to they want to react to that and when you do that your ability to focus in the long term your ability to focus on growth of the economy your ability to focus on the energy transition your ability to focus.

On not just a one-year solution for health care but an enduring solution for a generation is challenged because if you’re just dealing with the 24 7 News cycle you don’t make those long-term decisions that are going to be really good for this generation and the next Generations so that’s really a key thread in the book it’s nothing.

Different than what I would have said when I was around the table for five years we need to be thinking about those long-term really important issues and if we don’t put the growth in the economy at the front we won’t have the ability to sustain the great social programs that we have a country that has so much has so much Advantage is only going to.

Be that if we continue to have a strong and growing economy so so so that to me is is the issue and and it’s not it’s not this government it’s every government that will be faced with the challenge of the 24 7 News cycle the immense challenge of dealing with social media that that makes things uh that much more urgent.

And I certainly did uh get that from the book and I have more questions about the kind of Greater economic Vision in a second but I I know you’re saying it’s not just this government it’s other governments but but you are critical of this government in the book very specifically so and so I do want to ask you bluntly.

Do you think the prime minister is an effective manager of the economy I think that this government has rightly focused on the challenge that we have in terms of Canadians all feeling like they can face up to their their individual economic challenges things like the Canada child benefit were critically important for a really significant.

Number of Canadians in in feeling confident that they can raise their kids the work that I did on expanding the Canada Pension Plan is going to be very important for the long term but I think being an effective manager of the economy means going past those immediate things and thinking about the long term so doing that requires strong.

Relationships with the provinces and it requires a strong and positive sometimes challenging but positive relationship with the private sector because that is where growth is going to come from that’s where investment’s going to come from so I think for this government to be more effective and everyone can always do better more effective in.

Managing the economy it’s about engaging with the provinces to make sure that we create those opportunities across the country it’s about engaging with the private sector and thinking about how working together creates a Better Business environment I tried to do that while I was there it was a an ongoing Challenge and I think that is for sure a.

Very important challenge for this government especially today I take your point in all of that but I’m going to repeat the question because it wasn’t a specific answer do you think the prime minister is an effective manager of the economy well as I said I think everyone can do better and I think that the possibilities here are about.

Creating a better and more sustained environment for business investment and I think that that that is a challenge that the government needs to focus on reading through your book The Impression I’m left with though is that you don’t think that’s happening I think that we right now have a very big challenge we have two uh too.

Little business investment in this country we have a sense that some of the regulations that have been put in place are challenging for businesses to work with I don’t necessarily agree with all of that discussion but I think there’s a tone and tenor that is accurate that there is not enough dialogue between the.

Government and the private sector and that could improve our outcomes dramatically so so I look I I think we could have done better while I was there I think that the government can do better now and I think being an effective manager means focusing on a few things that are critically important and doing them every day the challenge.

Of the 24 7 News cycle response is that takes your eye off the ball and so for me growth in the economy long-term solution to a health care crisis that is it continues to repeat itself not just a one-year solution and thinking about that energy transition they all need that perspective what could you have done better as you.

Mentioned there are things during your time and things after as you reflect on it I think a lot of our viewers will be familiar with watching you for those five years and the degree to which you defended the government against a lot of the criticism you now Levy in this book you paint yourself as for example more fiscally prudent than your colleagues.

And in particular people in the prime minister’s office and the Prime Minister himself why didn’t we have that impression when you were Finance Minister and what do you regret so does Bill Morneau have regrets listen to his answer to that question after a quick break.

welcome back former Finance Minister Bill Morneau spends a good chunk of his new book where to from here a path to Canadian Prosperity telling Canadians how he thinks the Prime Minister mismanaged things but what about his own regrets that’s where we left things off before the break and here’s morno’s.

Answer in part two of our exclusive interview well before I talk about what I regret there’s a lot of things that I think this government has done right I think that the i i identified some of them I think things like the Canada child benefit were were really really important I think you know dealing with.

NAFTA that was a really important uh decision that the Prime Minister and his team had which was to focus every day on that issue while we were going through it so very positive and I think I need to be really clear the response to covet the initial response I think was the right response so I think there’s lots that was done right now that said I do.

Think that the tone and tenor in dealing with the private sector can be improved I think the some of the programs that we we wanted to put in place to encourage investment we didn’t follow through on as well as we could have I have to ask you also from a personal perspective where regret is concerned uh the the whole issue you know the.

Ethics issue I know in so much of this book you’re kind of delineating yourself from the Prime Minister but for some Canadians you they shared a view that both you and the Prime Minister were kind of out of touch with regular Canadians and part of that had to do with some of these accusations of ethics impropriety and then ultimately where we.

Is concerned of finding by the ethics commissioner that you were in contravention of the ethics the conflict of interest act rather and and more specifically not that you you know it was a potential conflict of interest not that you furthered your own interests but that you had a friendship with the founders of we uh that that ultimately.

Because you were involved in all of what happened to some degree or another uh could have resulted in furthering their interests I know that you talk a bit about it in the book um in that you say you should have recused yourself do you regret that you didn’t are you sorry that you didn’t because you don’t say that.

Well first of all it’s important to have context so you know this was going on when we were working 24 7 in covet trying to figure out how we could support Canadians and so one of the really important things we saw as a challenge was supporting students so that was the decision that was going on how do we support students and for sure.

I should have recused myself I mean in the decision around we I’m clear I was clear then I was clear in the book that that decision when it came to Cabinet I should have stepped out of the room the reality was that we were working fast on trying to do the right thing I think we were trying to figure out a way to get money into students hands so am I sorry.

That I didn’t walk out of the room of course I wish I had done differently then but that said I think that what’s really important around broader ethics issues is you know recognizing that when you’re in public life you have you have a responsibility you have a position of real opportunity to have an impact but it’s also a position of privilege so I.

Think I think it is important to think about your actions carefully mistakes will be made when you make a mistake admit it and uh you know that’s that’s what I would say is is how I address this issue I think importantly going forward people need to be careful and recognize that confidence of Canadians will be will be enhanced if people take.

Responsibility for their actions do you wish and acknowledging the context around covet and how fast things were moving do you wish um you you had been more careful I don’t know that I see uh I see it as as something other than I should have made a decision that I didn’t at a.

Particular moment in time because I wasn’t involved in the in the scrutiny of who was going to do what program I was very much engaged on setting up the you know the Serb benefit and setting up the benefit for the wage subsidies so there were a lot of things going on but we can always do better and I think it’s important to remember that.

Um in government that responsibility is is in you know enduring responsibility you served in the portfolio for five years pretty long compared to a number of other Finance ministers so I think it’s incumbent to ask you about the current economic situation this country faces and in particular something I know a lot of Canadians are worried about do.

You think there will be a recession this year I think the challenge that we’re facing now is is obviously significant you know the the only appropriate response for the central bank is to is to deal with the level of inflation inflation is hugely problematic for for people to deal with and so when you raise interest.

Rates inevitably there’s less investment so I do worry about the potential for a recession in 2023 my hope is that if we have one it will be a shallow recession and one that we’ll be able to come out of but I do think there’s a it’s important for us to to recognize that in managing the economy that is a likely uh or at least a high potential.

Outcome and it means you know the message around fiscal Prudence is doubly important we really need to make sure that we’re not adding to the challenge with government actions was there too much stimulus in the in the economy did the government spend too much during covet well I think if you look around the.

World what you would say is that uh generally there was there were some countries that did particularly well in in supporting their their citizens and I think Canada was one of them so I think you have to start with that perspective the the 30 000 foot view is we we did a good job in sporting Canadians was there too much you know probably but uh.

Getting it exactly right that’s tough so I think now that we have the benefit of seeing you know what transpired I think we need to be very cautious given that we know that the economic environment that we’re facing is challenging you also write extensively about the significance of the role of the provinces and the relationship between.

The feds and the provinces in fostering uh you know economic growth in navigating what could be a recession this year that relationship is at a boiling point right now you don’t advocate for writing a blank check in this book but should the Prime Minister be meeting with premiers on the issue well in my view and I’m pretty clear in.

The book the relationship with provinces for Canada and and you know the federal government and the provinces is job one so it’s both directions I think working on that relationship is critically important the example from the book is when we expanded the Canada Pension Plan I mean we by definition this is something that people don’t pay.

Day-to-day attention to it’s not it doesn’t get you many political votes because people aren’t thinking 20 years in the future yet we got all the provinces to work together to consider how we could enhance pensions for Canadians long down the road and we did that even though not all provinces were on board and in fact at least one.

Saskatchewan was absolutely not on board but we worked with them to find a way to get them willingly to come on board so so I think there is the potential for working with the provinces it requires diligent work nothing happens in relationships without meeting together that theme of relationships and the significance of them in politics in.

Government Echoes throughout the entire book is your relationship with politics done or have would you entertain a return to it well let me just say I I really enjoyed my time in office I mean it’s exciting to be at the center of of what’s going on in the country but more importantly.

It’s really meaningful to be able to have a big impact on the country so I I very much enjoyed the time doing that I think that right now the things that I can do I think I can add more value outside of that life I mean I think by advocating for pro-growth policies by advocating for an energy transition that recognizes Canada’s Great strengths but.

That we also need to figure out a way to decarbonize by advocating in things like what I’m doing with you today so I think that’s an important role that I can play and for me you know at this stage in my life I think that that’s I hope a place where I can continue to have impact so is that a never or just a not now well politics is all about timing and I think.

The timing for me now is to be back in the private sector to find a way to make an impact there okay Mr marneau I’ll leave it there thank you very much for your time I really appreciate it thanks so much coming up the inaugural Sunday strategy session will dig into the interview you just heard Kathleen monk Scott Reed and.

Corey tonight are here don’t go anywhere

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