The secret’s out

Whatever happened to budget secrecy? Here we are on the day Finance Minister Jim Flaherty brings down his budget and we already know that he will announce an end to the immigrant investor plan, legislation for better consumer prices in Canada versus the U.S., as well as more money for skills instruction, infrastructure projects and the auto sector. And, oh yes, there will be an overall deficit, supposedly the last for the Harper government. 

And I read all this in my morning paper, as supplied by officials in the know and the minister himself. Time was when a journalist who knew this much would be investigated by the RCMP looking for a leak. Doug Small, then of  Global News, was threatened with jail in 1989 because he seemed to have advance information. 

About the only tradition Flaherty honoured was outfitting himself with new shoes. In fact, no one knows where this so-called tradition came from, and not all finance ministers have followed it. A researcher in the Parliamentary Library has looked into this matter of fancy footwear and discovered that the first finance minister to wear new shoes was Donald Fleming in 1960 but only in one of his five budget presentations on behalf of the Diefenbaker government. Other finance ministers who did not wear new shoes include Walter Gordon, Don Mazankowski, and John Manley. According to the website, the footwear of Edgar Benson, John Turner, Allan MacEachen, and Donald Macdonald is not known.

Those who have worn new shoes include Mitchell Sharp, Jean Chretien, John Crosbie (if you count used mukluks), Michael Wilson, Marc Lalonde, Paul Martin Jr. (but only for the first of his seven budgets and they were new work boots), Ralph Goodale, and the aforementioned Flaherty who’s about half and half for his budgets.

It also used to be said that the cabinet post of finance was a graveyard for a politician. Flaherty laughs past that cemetery. Today’s offering will be his tenth budget, an all-time record. New shoes, apparently no longer matter so much. When it comes to information, new shoes have been replaced another budget tradition. Let’s call it old hat. 

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