Wednesday, February 12, 2014

History of Shilling and Finance Ministers

Amid all the wheel spinning -- and spin-spinning -- in yesterday's federal budget, Finance Minister Flaherty quoted a few bromides about fiscal rectitude from John Rose, "Canada's first minister of finance."

Confederation nerds all over the country said, huh?  Wasn't Alexander Galt....?

Actually they are both sort of right. Galt joined the Canadian cabinet as finance minister in July 1867, but resigned in November, just days after the first meeting of the commons. DCB has the nasty details:
In the autumn of 1867 the Commercial Bank of Canada, struggling with financial difficulties, sought the government’s help to avert bankruptcy. Galt first used his connections with the Bank of Montreal to seek a solution, but when banking circles refused to intervene, he decided to advise the cabinet to provide $500,000 in assistance to the Commercial Bank, in the interest of preventing the widespread panic that would ensue upon its closure. A second refusal resulted in the bank’s ceasing operations, and Galt, who felt that he had been “betrayed” by Macdonald in this matter, chose to resign, a step he took officially on 7 Nov. 1867.
Rose replaced him and introduced the first budget, etc. So Galt had the title first, but Rose did the job mostly. He got to be the first to say things like "I say that we ought to be most careful in our outlay, and consider well every shilling we expend.” -- now repeated by Flaherty, who knows about shilling.

Aaron Wherry of Maclean's has a nice backgrounder on this.
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