November 4, 2015 / 6:44 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-New Canada finance minister Morneau brings corporate experience

(Adds comments from Morneau, paragraphs 3-6)

By Leah Schnurr

OTTAWA, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau, a political newcomer appointed to the powerful post on Wednesday, brings decades of business experience which should reassure corporate Canada even as the Liberal government deploys a deficit-fueled stimulus plan.

Morneau’s expertise on pension reform will also be an asset to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has pledged to work with the provinces and businesses to enhance the national pension plan.

Morneau said the issue of expanding Canada’s pension plan is “very important.”

“Canadians aren’t saving enough to have a secure retirement,” Morneau told CBC television.

“We’re not going to have a plan tomorrow, but we are going to start thinking about what the right way to approach it is tomorrow.”

He also said he had not yet decided whether a fiscal update will be provided ahead of next year’s budget.

Morneau, 53, cut his executive teeth at Morneau Shepell, a firm founded by his father in 1966. When elected, he was executive chair of the company, a position he has since resigned.

He has also chaired Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute, a business-friendly think-tank, which brought him into contact with many senior executives in Toronto’s financial district.

“It’s a positive reception generally, but with a wait-and-see kind of mindset. Actions will ultimately determine the reaction,” Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada, said of the industry and financial market response to the appointment.

Wright, who has met Morneau at C.D. Howe events, said he will fit in with Trudeau’s onus on stronger collaboration.

Morneau inherits an economy in which the energy sector is struggling with cheaper oil, and many are worried about the health of a booming housing market.

Trudeau has laid out the major planks of his economic plan, a blueprint for the budget Morneau must deliver next year.

The Liberals plan three years of deficits, boosting infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy. The government has pledged to raise income taxes for the richest Canadians and cut taxes for the middle class.

“It is reassuring to have someone with a background in business and economics in this position,” said Bill Robson, chief executive of C.D. Howe, who has worked with Morneau.

Morneau also served as a pension investment advisor to Ontario’s provincial finance minister.

“Someone with Bill’s knowledge of pensions and asset management brings a perspective that our industry will welcome,” said Robert Young, who heads Canadian operations for trading network Liquidnet. (With additional reporting by Alastair Sharp and Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio)

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