Ed Fast steps down as Conservative finance critic after criticizing leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre

Ed Fast steps down as Conservative finance critic after criticizing leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre

Ed Fast says he resigned as the Conservatives’ finance critic after MPs supporting Pierre Poilievre tried to “muzzle” him from speaking out about monetary policy — particularly on issues such as cryptocurrency and the Bank of Canada.

“I’m trying to do my job at the Finance table and yet [there’s] incessant pressure to shut up. I just wasn’t going to put up with that,” he told CBC News.

Fast’s allegation is the latest indication of a leadership race that is sowing division in the Conservative Party.

The Abbotsford MP, who is co-chairing Jean Charest’s leadership campaign, said he had been feeling pressure to curb his comments for weeks.

WATCH Defending central bank’s independance is not a Liberal talking point, Fast says after resigning as Tory critic

Defending central bank’s independance is not a Liberal talking point, Fast says after resigning as Tory critic

“Defending the independence of the central bank is not a Liberal talking point,” says Conservative MP Ed Fast, after resigning as the party’s finance critic. He says MPs supporting Pierre Poilievre tried to ‘muzzle’ him from speaking out about monetary policy.

The breaking point seems to have come on Wednesday, when Fast told reporters he believes Poilievre’s vow to fire Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem over the country’s inflation rate — now the highest it’s been in 30 years — hurts the party’s credibility on economic issues.

“I’m deeply troubled by suggestions by one of our leadership candidates that that candidate would be prepared to interfere already at this stage in the independence of our central bank,” Fast told reporters ahead of the party’s caucus meeting.

He offered his resignation to Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen hours later. 

Fast says none of the pressure came from Bergen.

“I was trying to do my job while the Pierre Poilievre team wanted to muzzle me from asking questions,” he said.

Fast declined to say who he felt was trying to silence him or how that message was communicated. He cited the privacy of what is said in caucus meetings and said it would be inappropriate to discuss specific conversations.

CBC News asked Poilievre’s campaign for a response and was referred to MP Chris Warkentin, one of the co-chairs of Poilievre’s Alberta campaign.

Warkentin took issue with Fast’s allegations.

Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 28, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/Bloomberg)

“There is a difference between someone aggressively supporting their preferred candidate versus using his caucus position of trust to attack another campaign,” he said. 

“What many of us in caucus really objected to was Ed re-enforcing Liberal talking points about inflation to defend his preferred candidate.”

Poilievre pledged to replace Macklem as head of the country’s central bank during last week’s leadership debate in Edmonton, saying he would put someone in his place who follows the bank’s low-inflation mandate.

Following Fast’s comment early Wednesday, Poilievre responded that the Bank of Canada governor has a mandate to keep inflation at two per cent.

“Ed Fast and Jean Charest would have no problem firing a waitress or welder for not doing their jobs. But they won’t do the same for a big-shot banker whose failures have cost our people a fortune,” Poilievre said in a statement.

Bergen announced Fast’s departure as finance critic in a news release later that afternoon.

“Ed has publicly stated his support for one of the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership candidates and would like to be able to offer more dedicated support to that team,” Bergen said.

“I want to thank Ed for his many years of service to our Party and our caucus. While he won’t be serving in an official capacity, I know Ed will continue to be a valued member of our team and our caucus.”

Fast told CBC News he believes the party is a family and will come together after the leadership vote on Sept. 10.

However, he offered a warning for all leadership candidates about attacks.

“Those words can’t be taken back. They can be used by your opponents. They can sometimes permanently harm friendships,” he said.

“Understand you might be sowing the seeds of your own demise if you’re going to permanently damage your opponents.”

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