Morning Brief: Ottawa put on shuffle watch


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Good morning.

Bill Morneau is checking out, putting Ottawa on Cabinet shuffle watch.

Canada’s finance minister announced he is resigning in the middle of a major pandemic, yet insists he is not being pushed out. Morneau told reporters it is “the right time for a new finance minister” (Aaron Wherry asks, what, Aug. 17 specifically?). Morneau is now seeking the top post at the OECD. His bombshell resignation was telegraphed well ahead of time, with a spate of reports trickling out over the past week about friction between PMO and Finance. Morneau will stay on as finance minister until someone is appointed to replace him, and also plans to resign his seat.

Trudeau is expected to soon name a new finance minister, possibly as early as today, CP’s Joan Bryden reports.

Names being floated to replace Morneau are so far mostly unsurprising: Freeland, Duclos, Carney, Champagne, Qualtrough, Lametti, and did we mention Carney already? The mid-pandemic shuffle is expected to be minimal.

Morneau’s sudden resignation comes conspicuously in the middle of the WE drama, in which Morneau failed to recuse himself over the no-bid contract. Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called the resignation “further proof of a government in chaos,” and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said every time Trudeau “gets caught breaking ethics laws, he makes someone else take the heat.”

In Kady O’Malley’s iPolitics AM:

“Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre will offer his take on Morneau’s departure during his hastily scheduled appearance at the West Block press theatre later this morning, a development for which he’ll undoubtedly claim at least partial credit, what with Morneau having been a key target of the ongoing investigation into the WE Charity controversy. Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet may also get to weigh in on the changing of the guard in Ottawa, courtesy of a fortuitously timed caucus retreat in Bonaventure.”

GG scandal widens as expense tab rises: Julie Payette’s aversion to being followed around by the Mounties is ringing up loads of extra costs, according to another banger report by CBCs Ashley Burke. Her sources told her Payette “incurs costs that are unbelievable” as she gives her security detail the slip or causes them to reorganize on a dime, and the force has even “had to apologize for her behaviour to foreign security abroad because she treated them so poorly.”

New Brunswick is headed to the polls. Blaine Higgs called Canada’s first pandemic election, set for Sept. 14. It comes after the Liberals pulled out of four-party negotiations over a deal designed to avert a fall election. It raises fears over what happens if there’s a fall federal election called amid a second wave.

The CRA expects its online services will return tomorrow, after a massive credential-stuffing breach brought services to a halt. The victims are vulnerable to other hacks too, CBC points out.

The Chinese company blocked from sending its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada for human trials had created it by using medical technology licensed by Canada, our Charlie Pinkerton reports.

The federal government is rejecting a call from Ontario and Quebec to intervene in a strike at the Port of Montreal. That, despite concerns it will hurt the provinces’ food, retail, auto and manufacturing industries — already suffering under the strain of the pandemic.

And the CFL cancelled its 2020 season over the pandemic. It came on the heels of news that the federal government denied its proposal for a $30-million, interest-free loan.

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AROUND THE WORLD

Chips are down: The U.S. Commerce Department is rolling out more restrictions against Huawei, making it harder for the Chinese company to access chips for its 5G tech and smartphones. The move also caused a slump among major chipmakers.

North of the border, Meng Wanzhou continues to fight against her extradition in court. Her team is pushing for a wider release of redacted confidential information, but Canada is arguing it has already released as much as it can. Her lawyers are trying to prove she was the victim of a bilateral conspiracy cooked up between Canada and U.S. law enforcement.

Talk of the day: Michelle Obama. She took the spotlight at the DNC, garnering front page headlines for a scathing speech (in full here) where she said Donald Trump is the wrong president for the U.S. right now and “cannot meet this moment.” Democrats set their internal fights aside while facing the public; Bernie Sanders became a figure of party unity. As for the start of the convention under COVID, well… The Guardian described it as “part earnest telethon, part two-hour commercial, part awkward family Zoom call.” Reuters has this piece of convention highlights, and this piece on how U.S. political conventions may be forever changed.

The U.S. Postal Service political meltdown continues. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify to Congress next Monday, as the mail service becomes a major election issue. Ahead of that, Democrats are planning a Saturday vote on measures that would send $25 billion to the Postal Service, as the House meets for a rare weekend session. Meanwhile several U.S. states are considering suing the Trump administration to block it from making changes to the service in the lead up to November, and some members of Congress are calling for a criminal investigation into the postmaster general.

States weigh Trump’s unemployment boost: AP counted up how many states are willing to take Trump’s unemployment aid, for which they will have to cough up a quarter of the funds: 18 states will take the federal grants, 30 states are still evaluating, two rejected the offer.

Elsewhere: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rebuked Trump’s claim her country is seeing a “big surge” in coronavirus cases. The Philippines is studying whether a coronavirus mutation that is “said to have a higher possibility of transmission” actually is more infectious. And trade tensions between Australia and China are worsening over barley import tariffs and an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine (of course, not literal dumping of wine, which would be an even bigger travesty).

IN OTHER HEADLINES

WHAT WE’RE READING

ICYMI FROM IPOLITICS

CARTOON OF THE DAY

THE KICKER

The U.S. weather service is checking into whether Death Valley has now recorded the highest temperature on Earth: 54.4C. It was recorded in Furnace Creek, an actual place name. Locals are spending their time indoors, likening walking outside to “being hit in the face with a bunch of hairdryers.”

And that’s all for now! Have a good one.

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