Measuring Mr. Morneau.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau is a political newby. While he carries solid credits from the Toronto financial community, the gloves and all bets come off on March 22. First budgets are like that. He had better be wearing Kevlar undershorts as well as the traditional new shoes when he brings in that budget. He is already in a defensive mode.

His problem is that the expectations have already been set too high. And he is showing weakness in Ottawa’s children’s hour known as “Question Period.” It is rude, inane and repetitious testing and he has to suffer through it. He might wonder how his Teflon Leader Justin Trudeau slides through the questions but he is already grasping at straws.

Trudeau, with no financial credentials, can hardly step into the Finance Minister’s place and handle many questions for him. That buck stops with Bill.

Morneau’s only advantage so far is that he has far more personality and charm than Joe Oliver. In fact, Joe Oliver had neither in that job.

All the same, Morneau is going to take some hits for the team in March.

But he can hardly spin out his budget ahead of time in the hopes of making friends in the media. He can be assured that, in print at least, he has very few friends.

What he needs to do is prove that he is smarter. One of the things he might do is take the Bombardier file from the Prime Minister and make it his. He knows we have to be seen to be helping Bombardier survive—the company has already started some ritual layoffs to make it look more desperate. Companies such as Bombardier are always going to be going through lean and fat years in their economic cycle. Finance needs to launch a program of buying Treasury stock from the company in the lean years and releasing them to the market or back to the company in the fat years.

But that approach does not include buying into pipelines to aid Alberta’s oil sands exploiters. Alberta needs help diversifying its economy. Oil sands are anathema to Canada’s need for clean energy.

With the announcement of the budget date in four weeks, it means the budget has already been sent to the translators and it is being readied for the printers. It is not the qualities of the reader that are to be measured Mr. Morneau. It is the measure of the words.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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