| OTTAWA/TORONTO, March 19
OTTAWA/TORONTO, March 19 Joe Oliver brings a
sense of gravitas to his new job as Canada's finance minister,
an asset the governing Conservatives will want to emphasize as
they prepare to fight an election against young but popular
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.
Oliver is 73 and spent decades working on Toronto's Bay
Street, the heart of Canada's financial industry, before
becoming natural resources minister after his election to
Parliament in 2011. He was named finance minister on Wednesday,
replacing Jim Flaherty, who resigned the day before.
His resume plays to the image the Conservatives portray of
themselves as steady hands guiding the economy through
challenging times, and it may explain why Prime Minister Stephen
Harper did not turn to a younger face as he gets ready for the
Harper's main rival, Trudeau, 42, has actually been in
Parliament three years longer than Oliver but has little
management or financial experience.
Early in his career, Oliver worked as an investment banker
at Merrill Lynch and other investment dealers. He also served as
executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission and then
as president and chief executive officer of the Investment
Dealers Association of Canada (IDA).
"He is not only competent, he knows the game and he knows
the people," said Tom Caldwell, who heads wealth manager
Caldwell Securities and has known Oliver for more than 40 years.
"He knows literally everybody in the financial services
sector because of his years as head of the IDA, where he served
well, quite frankly."
The IDA was the precursor of IIROC, or the Investment
Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, a national
self-regulatory body that oversees investment dealers and
trading activity in both debt and equity markets.
"I can think of no better training for Ottawa than the IDA
of those days," said Caldwell, who likened the role to that of
heading the United Nations. "At least in the U.N. you have
people feigning diplomatic behavior. None of that veneer existed
at the IDA."
DISDAIN FROM ENVIRONMENTALISTS
In his tireless promotion of pipelines to get Canada's
land-locked Alberta oil sands crude to market, Oliver had drawn
the disdain of environmentalists, particularly when he spoke of
"environmental and other radical groups" opposing Enbridge Inc's
proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline to the Pacific
He is best known in the United States for his advocacy of
TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which
would move oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Pressured by
green groups, the Obama administration has held up approval of
the project, but Oliver has often pointed out that carbon
emissions from U.S. coal plants far exceed those currently
produced by the oil sands.
Within Canada, he has spearheaded a push to cut red tape to
make it easier for companies to develop major energy and natural
SECURITIES REGULATOR DEBATE
Oliver is also seen as someone with the right credentials to
push forward on an item that was at the top of Flaherty's
agenda: a national securities regulator. Ottawa has tried for
decades to replace a patchwork of 13 provincial and territorial
regulators with a single agency that would be more in tune with
today's globalized markets.
"Most people in our industry would like to see a national
regulator. Joe probably has the ability, being a man able to
seek consensus and work with people, to possibly bring that
about," Caldwell said.
Ian Russell, the head of industry lobby group IIAC, or the
Investment Industry Association of Canada, concurred.
"If there is anybody in Ottawa who understands the
importance and the need for a single securities regulator it is
Joe Oliver," said Russell, who worked closely with Oliver at the
IDA for over a decade through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Russell noted that Oliver has always had an abiding interest
in public policy and he has a firm grasp on the issues at hand.
"Public policy can play an important role in promoting the
efficiencies and functioning of the capital markets, but you can
only go down that road if you understand them well, and I think
Joe does. He's worked in the capital markets his whole career,"
Oliver has a law degree from McGill University and an MBA
from Harvard. He is married to Golda Goldman and has two sons.
In January 2013 Oliver underwent heart bypass surgery but
returned to active work shortly after.
"It's been tough for Joe," Russell said, noting Oliver's
tenacity in keeping going after his surgery and despite the
setback of losing the first time he ran for election to
Parliament in 2008. "That's one of his character traits; he's
got great perseverance and he sticks with it."
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway)