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Economists say Oliver’s Bay Street background key for finance post

Joe Oliver leaves Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Oliver was named the new finance minister.


As the successor to Jim Flaherty in the finance portfolio, former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver boasts a high profile as Canada's global salesman for the country's energy assets. His Bay Street background also holds him in good stead. But his short tenure as an MP is one potential drawback. The reaction so far to Mr. Oliver becoming the finance minister is generally positive.

Here is a sampling:

"His credentials are impressive as a recently minted MP but a seasoned market professional. What does he think about key policy issues like how to carve up future surpluses? Oliver has thus far held his cards close to his chest. About one month ago, Oliver deferred to the PM on the sensitive issue of income splitting proposals when he stated: 'We will look at a range of policies next year and, as you know, our government stands for the reduction of taxes. I'm not the one to formulate those policies, but we will advance in the direction of tax reduction. I think the issue is that individual members of Parliament or ministers don't discuss forthcoming tax changes. It's as simple as that.'" – Bank of Nova Scotia economists Derek Holt and Dov Zigler

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"Whoever comes into this office will surely have a mandate from the party not to change a thing in the budget, which will generate a return to surplus despite some pork-barrel spending ahead of elections." – High Frequency Economics' Carl Weinberg

"Mr. Oliver's previous experience at Merrill Lynch and at the Ontario Securities Commission would provide a solid background and understanding in finance to the job. He has also proved to be a very strong and energetic supporter for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has likely put him in PM Harper's good books. However, his lack of experience in Ottawa ... may be a bit more challenging when having to head a Department that is so much at the centre of economic policy, decision-making and with multiple links with other organizations. However, I don't think that it's something that would hinder him in normal situations." – Charles St-Arnaud, former Bank of Canada economist now at Nomura Securities Co. in New York

"In the short term, it seems that the biggest issue for the finance minister will be ensuring that some of Mr. Flaherty's goals are achieved – balancing the books by next year, progress on a national securities regulator, and avoiding a bubbling over in the housing market. With this year's federal budget already out of the way, it gives the new minister time to find his bearings." – BMO Capital Markets chief economist Douglas Porter

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More


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