Scott Brison named Treasury Board president in Liberal government
Former investment banker brings plenty of economic experience to portfolio
Nova Scotia's voice at the federal cabinet table has plenty on his plate in Ottawa, as well as at home in Cheverie.
Canada's newest Treasury Board president, Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison, not only has to juggle his new cabinet duties, but he and his partner Maxime St. Pierre are on the cusp of having to deal with the terrible twos. Their twin daughters, Claire and Rose, turn two in February.
Brison, the former investment banker, brings plenty of economic experience to his portfolio. He's been a member of just about every House of Commons committee with a money or trade mandate.
The Treasury Board, a cabinet committee of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada, is mainly responsible for accountability of the government's fiscal operations. As president, Brison's role is to aid government departments by allocating resources and processing programs approved by Cabinet.
Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien served as Treasury Board president under Pierre Trudeau's government between 1974 and 1976.
The one-time Progressive Conservative and two-time leadership hopeful (in 2003 for the PCs, in 2006 for the Liberals) is a political veteran who learned early about the advantages of making bold career moves.
After his first federal election win in 1997, he stepped down so that Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark could complete his political comeback by returning to the House of Commons. Brison took the seat back in the general election two and a half months later.
Clark so appreciated that show of loyalty that he campaigned for Brison when Brison ran under the Liberal party banner in 2004.
'He was a nice guy'
Crossing the floor to the Liberals after the merger between the Reform and PC parties earned Brison a cabinet post under Paul Martin.
John Young, a former president of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, first met the new Treasury Board president when Brison was a Dalhousie University student working as a kilted doorman at the Sheraton Hotel on the Halifax waterfront.
Young said that's where Brison honed skills he would later use as a politician.
"His skills of communicating with people, getting to know people, being polite, courteous, you know charming," said Young. "He was a nice guy."
He'll be able to help a lot of the new MPs ... get settled in and learn their new job of being an MP, which is not as easy as it sounds.- John Young
Brison is at his most charming dealing with constituents.
During one election campaign, reporter in tow, he dropped by the birthday party of an elderly woman he had promised to sing to as part of the celebration.
With the woman perched in a chair in the middle of the dance floor, Brison sang Conway Twitty's Hello Darling while holding her hand.
Moments after finishing the song and shaking a few hands, he was back on the campaign trail to win votes.
Young thinks beyond his cabinet and home responsibilities, Brison will be a valuable mentor to political rookies.
"He's also very collegial so he'll be able to help a lot of the new MPs, both from Nova Scotia and elsewhere in the country, get settled in and learn their new job of being an MP, which is not as easy as it sounds."
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, who spent seven years in Ottawa on the Liberal backbenches, considers Brison a good friend. He calls him a "creative thinker" who has a "sound understanding of financing in all its elements."
Savage is not impressed only with what Brison brings to the cabinet table, but the kitchen table too.
He says Brison is a good cook who can make "a lamb stew that can knock your socks off."
Premier weighs in
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil sees Brison's appointment to "an extremely important portfolio" as strategic for both Nova Scotia and the rest of the country.
"Congratulations to Scott. I look forward to continue to work with him. He's been a great colleague of mine, of our province and of our caucus for the last number of years," McNeil told reporters.
"Atlantic Canada has strong voices sitting around the cabinet table."
McNeil says Brison has been a champion of growing the provincial economy by seeking trade opportunities and investing in people and innovation.
Reworking a new health-care funding formula may now be made a little easier, he says.
"We see that [appointment] as a good fit for us," McNeil said. "And we wish him well."