Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday tapped Chrystia Freeland to be the country’s first female finance minister as an ethics scandal that clipped her predecessor’s wings reverberates through the government.
Guests socially distanced, wore face masks and Freeland greeted Trudeau with an elbow bump after taking the oath of office.
The prime minister is scheduled to speak to reporters later and announce the suspension of parliament until October, with a new federal budget to follow its return to work, a government source told AFP.
Freeland, 52, has held key posts in the Liberal government including deputy prime minister — a role she keeps — and previously as foreign minister, as well as leading free trade talks with the US and Mexico.
Tuesday’s cabinet shuffle also saw Dominic Leblanc take back his job as intergovernmental affairs minister from Freeland, after a fight with cancer.
The changes in the upper echelons of Canadian power allow Trudeau to reset the agenda as his government pivots to lifting Canada out of an economic slump following a months-long nationwide pandemic lockdown.
The two-month shutdown of parliament also effectively ends parliamentary committee inquiries into the WE Charity scandal dogging his Liberals.
On Monday, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced his resignation amid an ongoing scandal of accepting gifts from a charity organization and also a reported rift with PM Trudeau.
The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement a week ago saying Trudeau had “full confidence” in Morneau.
Morneau was also being investigated by Canada’s ethics commissioner over his ties to the WE Charity tasked with distributing pandemic relief to young Canadians.
Both Trudeau and Morneau apologized last month for the affair, saying they erred in not recusing themselves from discussions about awarding the roughly Can$500 million contract to WE Charity to distribute student scholarship funds.
Trudeau and his government have been under fire since announcing on June 25 that they were granting WE Charity a sole-sourced contract to run the now-halted student volunteer summer program of C$900 million ($664 million).
Last month, Trudeau said he made a mistake in not recusing himself from cabinet discussions about granting the program to the charity group.
The 57-year-old was an MP from Toronto Center and was first elected in 2015. He was appointed Finance Minister in October 2015 and remained in that post till the resignation.
(With inputs from agency)