Skip to main content

Scott Brison, the party’s finance critic in opposition, is one of the rumoured candidates for finance minister in Trudeau’s cabinet.FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

The business community is watching closely to see who Justin Trudeau will name as Canada's next finance minister, a job that will involve delivering on promised tax changes and working out the details of the Liberal Party's ambitious infrastructure plan.

At a news conference in Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau said a new cabinet will be sworn in on Nov. 4. He also suggested his cabinet will be smaller than more-recent ones.

The Liberal platform centred on a program to run three years of deficits worth a combined $25-billion to hike spending across the country in areas like transit, green energy and social housing.

Mr. Trudeau showcased the economic experience of several high-profile candidates during the campaign, and the Liberal caucus includes MPs who have held economic portfolios. Some accomplished individuals will inevitably end up disappointed as the prime-minister-designate weighs factors like region and gender to balance the makeup of cabinet.

Regina-Wascana MP Ralph Goodale was federal finance minister from late 2003 until early 2006, while Markham-Thornhill MP John McCallum is a former bank economist and revenue minister. In opposition, the Liberal finance critic was Scott Brison, a former Progressive Conservative with a business background who also has federal cabinet experience.

Economist David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff and Associates Inc. described Mr. Brison in a note to clients on Tuesday as "a likely choice" to be finance minister.

Another potential candidate is Chrystia Freeland, who is a senior member of the party's economic team and who was re-elected on Monday in the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale. Several newly elected Liberal MPs have extensive business and economic backgrounds, such as Bill Morneau of Toronto Centre, but some Liberals believe it is unlikely that the senior position of finance minister would be handed to a rookie MP.

"The [prime-minister-designate] is in an enviable position to choose a strong finance minister," said Scott Clark, a former deputy minister of finance. "He's going to have a very strong economic team, not just in the finance portfolio … If you have strong leadership in the Ministry of Finance, it means you have a strong cabinet."

Other key economic posts would include a minister of state for finance who would likely lead negotiations with the provinces on pension reform, an infrastructure minister to implement the party's core pledge, a trade minister to manage the Trans-Pacific Partnership review, and ministers of natural resources and the environment who would be in charge of negotiating new climate-change policies.

The selection of a new finance minister will be closely watched, as the government will be under pressure to provide a fall economic update quickly. The projections in the Conservative government's April budget are considered out of date, given that economic growth has underperformed expectations.

The next step for the new finance minister would be to prepare a budget that would begin implementing the Liberal platform.

The Liberals promised some significant tax changes, including reversing income splitting for families with children under 18 and reversing the near-doubling of the annual contribution limit to tax-free savings accounts.

Changes are also planned for personal income tax rates, with a cut for income earned between $45,000 and $90,000, and a hike on any income above $200,000.

Perhaps the most challenging task for the new finance minister and cabinet will be to craft a detailed infrastructure plan that delivers on the party's promises.

Raymond Louie, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said mayors across the country are pleased that more money is on the way for housing, roads, transit and other infrastructure, and the focus now will be to work with Ottawa on setting up the new program.

"This bodes well for us," he said. "My colleagues across the nation are pleased that we've got this level of commitment in terms of funding and now we're looking forward to a strong collaboration between local governments and this new federal government."

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who was elected on Monday in the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York and helped craft the party's infrastructure plan, said the program was designed to get federal money to Canadian municipalities quickly.

Mr. Vaughan said it was clear from Monday night's results that the party's infrastructure pledge resonated with urban voters.

"At the local political level, everybody knows that cities are carrying a massive infrastructure deficit that impacts the quality of life whether you're in Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax or St. John's," he said. "And it's certainly true in Toronto."