Six months after losing his Toronto seat in last fall’s federal election, former federal finance minister Joe Oliver has returned to investment banking.
On April 4, the 75-year-old former CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada (now IIROC and IIAC) began his new job as advisory board chairman of Origin Merchant Partners. His role includes advising on government policy, regulations and legislation. And, he’ll provide insight on energy, mining and forestry – sectors with which he became well acquainted during his time as natural resources minister.
Speaking to Advisor.ca, Oliver also shared his thoughts on Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s first budget, which projects a $29.4-billion deficit for this fiscal year.
Oliver says much of the budget’s $11.9-billion infrastructure spending will go to social and environmental programs over the promised five-year period. Those programs will be “hard to wind down” and lead to a structural deficit.
“There’s an advantage with that when there’s a demand problem, as there was during the Great Recession,” Oliver explains. “Now it’s more of a supply problem and we’re nowhere near a recession, and the real question is whether there will be a multiplier effect from that spending.”
He was “surprised and disappointed” with other aspects of the budget, including not going forward with the capital gains exemptions for donations of private company shares and real estate – a proposal Oliver introduced in his first and only budget in 2015.
“The asset couldn’t be bought back for five years to avoid any potential of games being played, but in essence it was to encourage larger donations to charitable organizations,” he says.
The 2016 budget also nixed income splitting for families with children under 18 (the Family Tax Cut), which the Liberals “had a right to do, because they campaigned against it.” Nonetheless, it was “unfortunate they did,” says Oliver.
“There was this idea that it only applied to wealthy people, and that was not true. The big beneficiaries would [have been] middle-class Canadians.”
Also gone is Oliver’s initiative to reduce the tax rate for Canadian-controlled private corporations on the first $500,000 of active business income from 11% to 9% by 2019. Despite campaigning to continue the Conservatives’ small business tax cuts, the Liberals have frozen the rate at the current 10.5%.
“Small businesses are the biggest generator of employment, and that’s why we felt they should get a break — because they work hard and they are the backbone of the country,” says Oliver.
But it was not an entirely bad-news budget for him.
“That’s a good thing,” says Oliver. “When you start fiddling around with those measures, it impinges on economic growth.”
“I happily think they heard from people that the consequences would be drastic, and that was the reason they backed off.”