Finance guys all have Montreal roots

Despite similar backgrounds, paths never crossed


Elizabeth Thompson, Gazette Ottawa Bureau

Published: 5 hours ago
OTTAWA - They grew up only a few miles apart, when Montreal reigned as Canada's financial centre. All are products of English Montreal schools, born within five years of each other. They had newspaper routes - two hauling The Gazette; the third the Montreal Star.

All three have sons. In all cases, their mothers have survived their fathers. All saw major changes to their careers at about the same time, in 1994-95.

Before they were handed the finance portfolio by their respective parties, Conservative Jim Flaherty, Liberal John McCallum and New Democrat Thomas Mulcair's paths had never crossed.

Now, as MPs prepare to deal with the mini-budget Flaherty is to deliver Tuesday, the paths of the three Montreal anglos will cross often. If you include Bloc Quebecois finance critic Paul Crete, who hails from Herouxville, all four MPs tasked with the finance portfolio grew up in Quebec.

Typical of Montreal's anglo community, two of them - Flaherty and McCallum - headed down the 401 for better opportunities and now represent ridings in the Toronto area. However, all three say the experience of growing up as English Montrealers still influences how they approach life - and finance.

Born Dec. 30, 1949, the finance minister is the oldest. Sixth of eight children in an Irish Catholic family, Flaherty grew up in a modest house on Broadway Ave. in Lachine.

"I look at what my own kids expect today, their own rooms and so on," the father laughed of three sons. "We dreamed about that kind of thing."
It was also in that neighbourhood the man who is now responsible for raising revenue for the government had his first job, delivering copies of the Star. "I had to go out and collect from people."

After elementary school, Flaherty went to Loyola High School. While there, his family moved to N.D.G. in a house where his mother still lives.
A hockey scholarship took him to Princeton University at age 16 in the mid-1960s. From there he did his law degree at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

Flaherty said his upbringing in Montreal and his years at Loyola are reflected in some of the measures he has introduced, such as his ground-breaking registered disability savings plan.

"Those are part of the values that I grew up with. That you look to see if there is uneveness and try to level the playing field. Not to make everyone the same but to make sure everyone has equal opportunity. I think that comes from growing up in Montreal."

Watching Canada's financial centre shift from Montreal to Toronto also influenced Flaherty.

"We grew up thinking of Montreal as a financial centre. Of course, later Toronto grew as a financial centre and now Calgary. So it teaches me the dynamism of the movement of capital."

Studying the movement of capital is what took McCallum to Toronto when he left his job as a professor at McGill University in 1994 to become chief economist for the Royal Bank.

Born April 9, 1950, one of four children, McCallum's upbringing was perhaps the most privileged. He was raised in Pointe Claire, Senneville (where he delivered The Gazette) and then Westmount, where he attended Selwyn House. From 14 to 18, McCallum boarded at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont., then studied in Cambridge and Paris before returning to do a PhD at McGill. He worked in Manitoba and British Columbia from 1974 to 1982 before teaching at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, then McGill. McCallum said his time at UQAM had a lasting effect.

"That experience of being at UQAM, which is not only French but kind of sovereignist, influenced my thinking quite a lot about Quebec, about Quebec and Canada. Being an anglo Montrealer but also being immersed in the franco world has influenced my thinking quite a bit."

While McCallum has never met Mulcair, he knows a number of the people Mulcair worked with at Alliance Quebec. His three sons are about the same age as Mulcair's two, and both men worked for the Manitoba government - Mulcair only a few years after McCallum.

Born Oct. 24, 1954, Mulcair is the youngest, and the newest arrival to Parliament, elected in last month's Outremont by-election.

The offspring of an Irish-Canadian father and a French- Canadian mother, Mulcair, like Flaherty, grew up in a large family of 10 children where he had to learn to fend for himself. Like Flaherty, one of his first jobs was a paper route. "That's how I had spending money through high school and into CEGEP. I had a really big route. I had over 100 Gazettes on Saturday."

His years at Laval Catholic High School "probably gave me a little bit better preparation for the rough and tumble," he says.

Mulcair, who studied law at McGill, took the leap into politics in 1994, only a few months before Flaherty did, getting elected as a Liberal to the National Assembly. Like Flaherty, he went on to serve in cabinet.

Like his counterparts, Mulcair says his background as an anglophone Montrealer will play a role in how he approaches his new job as NDP finance critic.

"It gives me a lot of sensitivity to the priorities of Quebecers."
ethompson@thegazette.canwest.com