November 4, 2015 – Ottawa, ON – 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.
Before his transition to politics, Morneau was executive chair of human resources giant Morneau Shepell and, previously, chair of the C.D. Howe Institute. According to Bloomberg News, Morneau maintains a 4.7 per cent stake in the company that bears his name, a holding valued at more than $30 million.
A first-time member of Parliament, he was elected to the riding of Toronto Centre in the Oct. 19 federal vote. He has master’s degrees in economics and business administration – having attended the London School of Economics and the University of Western Ontario. His wife, Nancy, comes from the family behind the globally successful McCain Foods, the potato produce company begun in Florenceville, N.B., in 1957 and still privately owned.
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