Edgar John "Ben" Benson PC, FCA, BComm (May 28, 1923 – September 2, 2011) was a Canadian politician, businessman, diplomat, and university professor. He held four cabinet posts, most notably that of Minister of Finance under Pierre Trudeau, where he was instrumental in reforming Canada's income tax law.[1] He was described as "Pierre Trudeau's unflappable finance minister, the pipe-smoking financial wizard who raised the ire of corporate Canada in the 1970s by bringing in a capital gains tax."[1]

Edgar John Benson
Member of Parliament
for Kingston (1962–1968);
Kingston and the Islands (1968–1972)
In office
Preceded byBenjamin Graydon Allmark
Succeeded byFlora MacDonald
Minister of Finance
In office
April 20, 1968 – January 28, 1972
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
Preceded byMitchell Sharp
Succeeded byJohn Turner
Personal details
BornMay 28, 1923
Cobourg, Ontario
DiedSeptember 2, 2011(2011-09-02) (aged 88)
Ottawa, Ontario
Resting placeBeechwood Cemetery
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Marie Louise van Laer (1946–1974)
Mary Jane Binks (1987–2011)
Alma materQueen's University (1949)
ProfessionChartered Accountant (1952)
Military service
Branch/service Canadian Army
Years of service1941–1946
Rank Sergeant
Unit1st Survey Regiment, RCA
I Canadian Corps

Early years edit

After serving overseas in the Second World War as a sergeant in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, Benson attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where he obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree. He became a chartered accountant and partner in the accounting firm of England, Leonard, Macpherson and Company, and co-owner of CKLC.[2] Prior to his entry into politics, he also taught Business Administration at Queen's, in the capacity of Assistant Professor of Commerce.[3][4]

Political life edit

He was first elected to the House of Commons of Canada in the 1962 general election as the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston, Ontario. Initially appointed in 1962 as Parliamentary Secretary to then Minister of Finance Walter Gordon, he entered the Cabinet of Prime Minister Lester Pearson in 1964 as Minister of National Revenue, and served concurrently from 1966 to 1968 as the first President of the Treasury Board.

He was an early supporter of Pierre Trudeau in the 1968 Liberal leadership campaign to replace the retiring Pearson, and, together with Jean Marchand, was co-chairman of Trudeau's leadership bid.[1] He was later appointed Minister of Finance, serving from 1968 to 1972.

Tax reform (1971) edit

Benson's balanced budget for 1969-70 would be the last until Paul Martin's budget of 1997-98.[5] Later in 1969, he introduced his white paper on Canadian tax reform, which paved the way for:

The proposals were subjected to intensive debate that lasted more than a year. Those concerning the capital gains tax were severely criticized by the business community, particularly Israel Asper, who condemned the measure.[9] The reforms were only passed after significant amendment, and even then only through the use of closure.[1] They came into effect on January 1, 1972, as prescribed by the 1971 Canadian federal budget.[10]

Marc Lalonde, a colleague and future Finance Minister, later said, "He was in finance at a critical time, he revolutionized the system. He launched a revolution. It was a revolution, a necessary step and a demanding task. What he did was economically justified. The basic tax structure that he put in place is still alive. No one has really touched it since."[1]

Impact edit

He was also instrumental in rolling out a national medical care plan and supplementary old age pensions and played a key role in federal-provincial relations.

Benson wore a pair of new shoes on budget day in 1968, although he said, "He didn't buy them just for the budget."[11] The following year he did not wear new shoes when delivering the budget, saying jokingly that he couldn't afford them,[12] and in 1970 proudly displayed his worn soles on budget day.[13]

He later served as Minister of National Defence from January to August 1972, when he retired from politics, choosing not to run in the 1972 election.

Later life and death edit

Benson served as President of the Canadian Transport Commission from 1972 to 1982,[14] and as Canadian Ambassador to Ireland from 1982 to 1985.[15] He died on September 2, 2011, at the age of 88.[16]

Honours edit

Benson was conferred honorary degrees as a Doctor of Laws from:

Electoral record edit

Kingston edit

1962 Canadian federal election: Kingston
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal Edgar Benson 16,828
Progressive Conservative Benjamin Allmark 13,599
New Democratic John McKinnon 1,468
Social Credit Ernest Hogan 214
1963 Canadian federal election: Kingston
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal Edgar Benson 18,425
Progressive Conservative J. Earl McEwen 12,879
New Democratic Denis Kalman 2,400
Social Credit Grace C.A. Gough 194
1965 Canadian federal election: Kingston
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal Edgar Benson 16,022
Progressive Conservative J. Earl McEwen 12,766
New Democratic John Meister 3,530

Kingston and the Islands edit

1968 Canadian federal election: Kingston and the Islands
Party Candidate Votes %
Liberal Edgar Benson 16,234 49.7
Progressive Conservative Boggart Trumpour 11,799 36.1
New Democratic Brendan McConnell 4,636 14.2
Total valid votes 32,669 100.0

Further reading edit

  • Benson, E.J. (1969). Proposals for tax reform (PDF). Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada.
  • Benson, E.J. (1971). Summary of 1971 Tax Reform Legislation (PDF). Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e Hustak 2011.
  2. ^ "Radio station history - CKLC-FM". Canadian Communications Foundation. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Tax Reform (speech)". Empire Club of Canada. 13 February 1969.
  4. ^ "Flags lowered for former School of Business professor". Queen's Gazette. Queen's University. September 9, 2011. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Brian Lee Crowley; Jeff Waldman (2011). Fearful Symmetry - The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values. Ottawa: Macdonald-Laurier Institute. ISBN 978-1-4566-0552-0.
  6. ^ Benson 1969, ch. 3.
  7. ^ Benson 1969, par. 2.7-2.9.
  8. ^ Benson 1969, par. 2.45-2.52.
  9. ^ Israel Asper (1970). The Benson iceberg: a critical analysis of the white paper on tax reform in Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company. OL 5396963M.
  10. ^ An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and to make certain provisions and alterations to the statute law related to or consequential upon the amendments to that Act, S.C. 1970-71-72, c. 63
  11. ^ Robert Hull (23 October 1968). "Name makes tax no sweeter". The Windsor Star. p. 16.
  12. ^ "Busy day for Mr. Benson". The Montreal Gazette. 4 June 1969. p. 16.
  13. ^ "Setting an example?". The Windsor Star. 13 March 1970. p. 13.
  14. ^ "Taking Control - The Canadian Transport Commission, 1967 to 1988". Canadian Transportation Agency. Archived from the original on 29 May 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  15. ^ "Benson, Hon. Edgar J. (Non-career)". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Edgar John Benson". Kingston Whig-Standard.
  17. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipients 2008-2010". Queen's University. Retrieved 11 April 2013.

External links edit