On the list of 22 policy wonks and corporate execs who met this week with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, one name stood out.
“Jim Peplinski, former captain of the Calgary Flames.”
That’s how the former NHLer, who retired in 1989 after his Flames won the Stanley Cup, was described in the media handout by Finance Canada.
Reporters were clearly puzzled.
The Sun newspaper chain described the minister’s day-and-a-half event in Wakefield, Que. as “a retreat to discuss fiscal policy with a former NHL hockey player, the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? founder and 20 other business people, academics and journalists.”
But the NHL old-timer, now 50, wasn’t invited to reminisce about his skating days with Lanny McDonald.
Rather, the minister -- who didn’t know Mr. Peplinski personally -- invited the former forward to the off-the-record talks because of his business background.
After retiring, Mr. Peplinski threw himself into the auto leasing business -- and later investments in real estate and oil and gas -- building a private company that grew to over 500 employees before he sold off most of the operation over the last couple of years.
Still, Mr. Peplinski admits he was caught off guard when a staffer from Mr. Flaherty’s office called asking him to take part in the retreat. He is not active or particularly interested in partisan politics.
He said he phoned his father Des, a former Ottawa-based public servant with the Industry department, for advice.
“He said, ‘You get out of it what you put into it,’” said Mr. Peplinski. So he made he the trek to Wakefield. “I frankly didn’t know what to expect.”
He said he was impressed with the quality of the discussions during the overnight retreat at the picturesque village in Western Quebec. His advice to the minister was to erase the deficit as soon as possible by shrinking the size of government.
“As I listened, my conclusion is the government is seriously interested in balancing the budget and attacking the debt, and they’re trying to get a sense from people like me if we’ve got the stomach for it,” he said. “My view is more generational. I would like to see our country passed on to my kids and our kids’ kids in a more solid state than it currently exists.”
This was the fifth year in a row that Mr. Flaherty has held a summer policy retreat.
Below is a full list of this year’s 21 other participants:
Daniel Billen, VP and General Manager of Amgen Canada Inc.
Julie Di Lorenzo, President of Diamante Urban Corp.
Sean Durfy, former President and CEO of WestJet
David Frum, former speechwriter to U.S. President George W. Bush and editor of FrumForum.com
Stephen Jarislowsky, Chairman of Jarislowsky Fraser Limited
Nitin Kawale, President of Cisco Systems Canada
John Kelleher, President and CEO of RHB Group LP
Robert P. Kelly, Chairman and CEO of BNY Mellon
Ian Lee, Professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business
Edmund J. Martin, President and CEO of Nalcor Energy
L. Ian Macdonald, a newspaper columnist and Managing Editor of Policy Options magazine
Susan J. McArthur, Managing Director of Jacob Securities Inc.
Andrew McKee, CEO of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada
Michael E. Moore, President and CEO of GCT Global Container Terminals Inc.
Paul Ostrander, President and CEO of Holcim (Canada) Inc.
Nobina Robinson, CEO of Polytechnics Canada
Brian Scudamore, Founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT JUNK?
Karen Sheriff, President and CEO of Bell Aliant
Karl Smith, President and CEO of FortisAlberta Inc.
Mark Standish, President and Co-CEO of RBC Capital Markets
Michael Wilson, President and CEO of Agrium Inc.