Treasury Board head Clement survived hard files

Wed May 18, 2011 2:33pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The new Treasury Board president, Tony Clement, is a fanatical Twitter user who has handled some of the Conservative government's toughest files without suffering much political damage.

Clement will be in overall charge of managing government spending. Previously industry minister, he was named to his new post in a cabinet shuffle on Wednesday.

Last November, he controversially blocked a $39 billion takeover bid by Anglo-Australian miner BHP Billiton for Canadian fertilizer producer Potash Corp.

Clement said the deal would not be of net benefit to Canada, prompting complaints from some quarters that he had tarnished the government's pro-business slant. The diminutive 50-year-old, known for delivering a pithy quote, dismissed the criticism.

"I think that's ridiculous. You can't say we've become Venezuela because of one decision," he told Reuters shortly after announcing the veto.

He is sometimes named as a possible contender to run for the leadership of the Conservatives once Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves his post. Unlike some of his rivals, he is fluent in French, Canada's second official language.

Clement became federal industry minister in October 2008 and quickly found himself at the heart of Ottawa's move to provide billions of dollars in loans to help struggling auto makers General Motors and Chrysler.

Although the Conservatives have traditionally decried state support for corporations, Clement said the country's economy would have suffered enormous damage without government help going to the large auto sector.   Continued...

<p>Tony Clement (L) is sworn-in as the President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa May 18, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>