Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland looks on during a news conference Friday June 12, 2020 in Ottawa. Today, she was named Canada's first-ever female finance minister. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Chrystia Freeland becomes Canada’s first-ever female finance minister

Chrystia Freeland has been named Canada’s first female finance minister, replacing Bill Morneau who stepped down late Monday evening.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally announced Freeland’s appointment this afternoon at a ceremony at the Governor General’s residence at Rideau Hall.

Freeland will retain her role as deputy prime minister

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc will assume her intergovernmental affairs portfolio.

Morneau said Monday he will be stepping down from cabinet and resigning his seat in the House of Commons to pursue the job of Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Morneau’s resignation came amid reports of policy clashes with Trudeau over the country’s ballooning deficit and a potentially damaging ethics investigation over their handling of a multimillion federal student grant program.

“I met with the prime minister today to inform him that I did not plan to run again in the next federal election,” Morneau told reporters Monday evening at a press conference from Ottawa. “It has never been my plan to run for more than two federal election cycles.”

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announces his resignation during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Morneau, who has held the post for five years, denied he was forced to resign by Trudeau.

Morneau said Canada faces a “long and challenging recovery” from the worst economic downturn in modern Canadian history and the prime minister deserves to have someone who will be there for the long haul.

Freeland, 52, is a former journalist who has already served as Canada’s international trade minister, foreign affairs minister and deputy prime minister.

She is seen as fiercely loyal to Trudeau, who has entrusted her with stick-handling some of the most delicate files, including Canada’s all-important trade relationship with the United States, as well as Ottawa’s complicated relations with Western Canadian provinces.

As Canada’s new finance minister, Freeland will have to tackle the country’s deficit, which has ballooned to $343 billion, largely becaused of federal pandemic emergency programs designed to keep the Canadian economy afloat and to stave off further staggering job losses.

With files from CBC News

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