Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has issued a public “ultimatum” for federal Liberals that he says could mean another election this October.
Blanchet told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday that, in addition to its earlier calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to resign for their roles in the WE Charity controversy, his party also wants Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, to step down.
If the demands are not met, Blanchet said, he will move a motion of non-confidence in the minority Parliament this fall.
“We should remove three persons from office, instead of two, because things are getting worse,” he said.
Watch: Bloc leader says Trudeau, Morneau, and Telford need to go
Blanchet reiterated that he feels Trudeau and Morneau “disqualified” themselves from their current roles because of the WE Charity controversy. Both men are facing ethics investigations for not recusing themselves, despite their family ties to WE Charity, from the government’s decision to award the group a since-scrapped deal to manage a $912-million student-grant program. The ethics commissioner is also probing Morneau’s repayment to the WE organization of $41,366 to cover travel expenses for family trips to Kenya and Ecuador in 2017.
Blanchet has upped the ante to include Telford in light of new questions about the management of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance emergency program, introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide rent relief for small businesses. Though Ottawa tapped the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) to run the program, the Crown corporation outsourced the work to mortgage lender MCAP, where Telford’s husband, Rob Silver, is a senior executive. The contract is worth $84 million.
Trudeau’s office said CMHC independently chose to go to MCAP. A spokesperson for CMHC told The Canadian Press this week that it “did not have the internal capacity to stand up the program in short order.″
The Prime Minister’s Office also released letters showing Telford told the ethics watchdog about her husband’s job in January. She also set up an ethics screen guaranteeing she wouldn’t be involved in decisions that could benefit MCAP, even though she was advised by the commissioner that was not necessary.
Conservatives have called for the lobbying commissioner and House of Commons finance committee to investigate the deal, something they allege is another example of cronyism.
Blanchet said that it’s clear this government “might not be worthy of our trust anymore.” He said he has not had formal conversations with other opposition leaders to suss out their positions. With 156 seats in the House, Liberals would only need the support of the 24 NDP MPs to survive a vote of non-confidence.
Though Tory MPs have also called on Trudeau and Morneau to resign, they have stopped short of committing to taking down the government over the matter.
“My fear is that (Conservatives) might not want to go into an election, however severe their comments or their points against the government are,” he said.
Conservatives will pick a new leader later this month. Presumed front-runners Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole both pledged in early March to try to force an election as soon as possible, but backed off those plans in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Blanchet suggested he wasn’t concerned about optics and safety issues involved in potentially forcing a vote during the pandemic.
“Which is more dangerous? A mismanagement of a crisis or taking the time to change the people who are managing the crisis?” he said. “And I’m not the one to impose an answer to that. But it is the job of the Parliament to do so.”
“I haven’t heard a lot of Canadians demanding an election right now but obviously, in a minority Parliament, Parliament gets to decide when it no longer has confidence in the government,” he said at the time. “Certainly the focus we have, moving forward, is trying to respond to help Canadians as best we can in the immediate.”
On Tuesday, the prime minister released a statement expressing “full confidence” in Morneau after a report from The Globe and Mail quoted unnamed sources as saying Trudeau was clashing with his finance minister over the country’s economic recovery.
With files from The Canadian Press