12 May 2016
First, he balanced the budget after a string of Conservative and Liberal government deficits let the national debt get out of hand. He was ruthless, cutting nearly every department, and many on the left were furious at his assaults on social programs and the CBC. Being on the left myself I cringed at these cuts, but I am also a child of the 1930s, born during the Great Depression, and many of my generation have frugality, a "make do" attitude, etched into our bones. I therefore supported, albeit reluctantly, balancing the federal budget as a necessary and courageous act. He didn't make the cuts the way I would have, but then politicians often follow policies contrary to my infinite wisdom and yet, to my surprise, they work.
Secondly, he put the Canada Pension Plan on a sound footing. Previously it had been used recklessly as a source of cheap loans for the provinces. He created an independent board with investment in the hands of professional management, greatly enhancing financial security for millions of older Canadians, of which I am one.
And thirdly, he resisted enormous pressure from the Americans (and the Brits) to deregulate our banking industry, thus saving our financial bacon during the crash of 2008. Ironically, Stephen Harper usually gets credit for managing us through the crisis when, if he had been prime minister during the 1990s, he would almost certainly have collaborated enthusiastically in deregulation, an approach right up his neoliberal alley.
These three achievements alone, all of singular importance to the health, economic and otherwise, of our country, elevate the Right Honourable gentleman to the top rank of finance ministers. The greatest? He has my vote.
Posted by Bill Longstaff at 11:56 pm