Home / Market / Long-time Bay Streeter Bill Morneau brings rich experience to Canada’s top finance post

Long-time Bay Streeter Bill Morneau brings rich experience to Canada’s top finance post

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, goes face-to-face with Finance Minister Bill Morneau at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 4, 2015.

OTTAWA — When it comes to finance ministers, Canada’s new budget czar is no small potatoes.

A millionaire many times over, Bill Morneau — until now a hugely successful businessman and adviser to people in high places — is, by all accounts, a very smart guy, who is also married to Nancy McCain. That’s right, a family member of the spud monarchy of New Brunswick.

Lifted from the private sector by newly installed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the second-highest political rank in the federal government, the 53-year-old Morneau joins a group of well-educated and usually richly rewarded Canadians who, in the past, also received cabinet appointments.

But wealth that predates entry into politics has proven to not necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, many successful politicians were pretty well off before they ever entered the federal fray of Ottawa. And not many got richer while being there.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could be applauded for looking past what was bound to be signs of smugness from critics who equate business success as a transition to political opportunism.

By naming Morneau to the No. 2 cabinet post on Wednesday, though, Trudeau is betting on a political payoff in bringing a long-time Bay Streeter — someone who already knows how to read a balance sheet — into public office to help direct the economy out of stagnation.

“In terms of (Morneau’s) general business and economic literacy, that’s high. So, for an incoming finance minister, that’s great,” said William Robson, president at C.D. Howe Institute, who has worked with Morneau for more than a dozen years. “I know him as a friend as well.

“There’s a lot in the briefing book that the (Finance) Department would have prepared for him. But they’re going to be able to flip through those pages relatively quickly.”


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