Canada's Joe Oliver brings Bay Street know-how to finance minister's job

Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:38pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and Euan Rocha

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - 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 2015 election.

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.   Continued...

Joe Oliver arrives to be sworn in as Canada's new Finance Minister at Rideau Hall in Ottawa March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie