Allan J. MacEachen was laid to rest last month in his beloved Cape Breton. He was truly the Liberals’ Godfather for many decades in Atlantic Canada, but it’s a wonder that he didn’t disappear politically in 1981 when he brought down a budget as Pierre Trudeau’s Minister of Finance.
The Liberals were in the second year of Pierre’s great comeback. The PM was engaged in a heavyweight bout with Peter Lougheed called the ‘National Energy Policy’, and the economy was in a shambles. Inflation and interest rates were both at double digits, and Ottawa had a huge deficit.
Allan J. brought down a budget that read like the only person he consulted might have been the plumber who came to re-do his bathroom. He lowered personal income tax rates, but raised taxes on just about everything else, especially big business. The only problem was the fact that small business also got clobbered. Sound familiar?
Maybe MacEachen left a copy of the 1981 budget speech in a forgotten drawer, and Bill Morneau picked it up by mistake this year. Over the next several months back then, Allan J. had to ‘walk back’ almost every measure that was in his budget, and Morneau is on a similar path.
With the exception of John Turner and Paul Martin, who both got to run this country for about 20 minutes each, no Canadian Finance minister has ever parlayed the job into a long stay at 24 Sussex.
Prior to running for office in 2015, Bill Morneau had a very successful career in business. It helped him buy a villa in the south of France, and a very nice life. Strangely, he decided not to put his personal business interests in a blind trust. Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson apparently said it was “OK” as far as she was concerned, and maybe it’s time to find a new person for that job also.
It’s hard to say what the future holds for Bill Morneau. Perhaps he should have asked ‘selfie boy’ for a different job before the election, or maybe he should have moved to the south of France.
I’m Roger Currie