Bill Morneau was named finance minister by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Mr. Morneau, former CEO of the Morneau Shepell pension consulting firm that was started by his father, was given the post Wednesday as Mr. Trudeau announced his Cabinet in Ottawa. Mr. Morneau was elected in the Oct. 19 vote that swept the Liberal Party to power for the first time since 2006.
The appointment of a corporate executive to the key finance post suggests Mr. Trudeau will turn quickly to bolstering Canada's stagnant economy, improving its poor productivity record and getting the nation's businesses spending again. Canada's economy is forecast to grow about 1% this year, less than half the U.S. rate, as plunging prices for oil, natural gas and other commodities leads to job and spending cuts at Canada's resource companies.
Mr. Morneau, who holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Western Ontario and a master's from the London School of Economics, beat out a host of long-serving Liberal lawmakers for a post that typically goes to a political veteran who can navigate public and caucus pressure for spending while maintaining fiscal restraint, as Mr. Trudeau pledges to run deficits to stimulate growth.
Mr. Morneau served on the advisory committee to create and implement the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, a supplement to the C$268.8 billion ($205.5 billion) Canada Pension Plan, Ottawa, slated to go into effect in 2017. While campaigning for prime minister earlier this year, Mr. Trudeau said he would be open to considering a national supplement to the CPP, which had been opposed by the outgoing Conservative government under Stephen Harper.
The finance minister “is not an equal among other ministers,” said Don Drummond, a former deputy minister at finance and chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, in an interview before the Cabinet announcement. “This person is the one who says yes and more often says no to others, and has the authority to carry it out.”
Mr. Morneau, who was elected to Parliament to represent Toronto, served as an executive at Morneau Shepell from 1992 to 2009, when he became executive chairman. He also served as chairman of the C.D. Howe Institute, a prominent think tank, from 2010 to 2014.
Pensions & Investments reporter Rick Baert contributed to this story.