Edgar John Benson
|Member of Parliament|
for Kingston (1962–1968);
Kingston and the Islands (1968–1972)
|Preceded by||Benjamin Graydon Allmark|
|Succeeded by||Flora MacDonald|
|Minister of Finance|
April 20, 1968 – January 28, 1972
|Prime Minister||Pierre Trudeau|
|Preceded by||Mitchell Sharp|
|Succeeded by||John Turner|
|Born||May 28, 1923|
|Died||September 2, 2011 (aged 88) |
|Resting place||Beechwood Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Marie Louise van Laer (1946–1974)|
Mary Jane Binks (1987–2011)
|Alma mater||Queen's University (1949)|
|Profession||Chartered Accountant (1952)|
|Years of service||1941–1946|
|Unit||1st Survey Regiment, RCA|
I Canadian Corps
Edgar John "Ben" Benson, (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. 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."
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. Prior to his entry into politics, he was also a lecturer in Business Administration at Queen's, in the capacity of Assistant Professor of Commerce.
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. He was later appointed Minister of Finance, serving from 1968 to 1972.
Benson's balanced budget for 1969-70 would be the last until Paul Martin's budget of 1997-98. 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. The reforms were only passed after significant amendment, and even then only through the use of closure. They came into effect on January 1, 1972, as prescribed by the 1971 Canadian federal budget
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."
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." The following year he did not wear new shoes when delivering the budget, saying jokingly that he couldn't afford them, and in 1970 proudly displayed his worn soles on budget day.
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.
Benson served as President of the Canadian Transport Commission from 1972 to 1982, and as Canadian Ambassador to Ireland from 1982 to 1985. He died on September 2, 2011 at the age of 88.
Benson was conferred honorary degrees as a Doctor of Laws from:
|1962 Canadian federal election|
|Liberal||Edgar John Benson||16,828|
|Progressive Conservative||Benjamin Allmark||13,599|
|New Democratic||John McKinnon||1,468|
|Social Credit||Ernest Hogan||214|
|1963 Canadian federal election|
|Liberal||Edgar John 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|
|Liberal||Edgar John Benson||16,022|
|Progressive Conservative||J. Earl McEwen||12,766|
|New Democratic||John Meister||3,530|
|1968 Canadian federal election|
|Progressive Conservative||Boggart Trumpour||11,799||36.1|
|New Democratic||Brendan McConnell||4,636||14.2|
|Total valid votes||32,669||100.0|