Trudeau Turns to TD and BlackBerry for Economic Advice

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Justin Trudeau is turning to leaders from companies that include Canada’s biggest bank and BlackBerry Ltd. to help convince Canadians his opposition Liberals can be trusted to run the economy ahead of next year’s elections.

Toronto-Dominion Bank deputy chairman Frank McKenna and BlackBerry director Barbara Stymiest are among the 17 members of Trudeau’s council of economic advisers, the party said in a statement. The list includes George Gosbee, head of Calgary-based investment bank AltaCorp Capital Inc. and former economic adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, as well as former New Brunswick Deputy Premier and ex-Bank of Canada director Aldea Landry and biotechnology entrepreneur Martin Leblanc.

“During the past year, we have brought together non-partisan experts from across the country to examine the key economic issues facing Canadians, as well as potential policies a new federal government ought to consider,” Trudeau said in the statement.

Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, heads into 2015 with his party leading Harper’s Conservatives in most public-opinion polls. A federal vote is scheduled for October.

The Liberal lead has narrowed in recent months, as Harper benefits from positive perceptions about his handling of the military campaign against Islamic State and national-security concerns at home.

The Conservatives won a majority of seats in the 2011 vote by promoting Harper, who holds a master’s degree in economics, as the best leader to guide the country through the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Jobs and the economy rate as the most important concern for 21 percent of voters, ahead of all other issues, according to polling firm Nanos Research Group.

Panel Meetings

Trudeau’s economic panel has met several times over the last year to discuss issues such as infrastructure investments, the energy industry, opportunities for the middle class and the government’s fiscal plans, according to the statement.

The Conservatives have tried to depict Trudeau, 42, as a policy lightweight who can’t match the prime minister’s knowledge or judgment on economic issues.

That portrayal is a “caricature,” said Bill Morneau, a business executive who sits on the panel and who is running for the Liberals in a Toronto district. Trudeau has been meeting executives from various industries as part of a “deep dive” effort to understand the country’s economic challenges, said Morneau, executive chairman of human-resources consulting firm Morneau Shepell Inc.

“I want somebody who can understand how to deal with complexity, and managing an organization like the Liberal Party from where we were to where we are now is a very complex task,” Morneau said in a Dec. 3 phone interview.

Lawmaker Leaders

The Liberal panel is co-run by lawmakers Chrystia Freeland and Scott Brison. Other Liberal legislators on the council include former finance minister Ralph Goodale, former Royal Bank of Canada chief economist John McCallum and former immigration minister Judy Sgro.

“A challenge always in opposition is you aren’t doing the job yet, and you have to earn the trust and the confidence of people,” Freeland said by phone yesterday. The Liberals have a “strong legacy of economic management” to lean on, having eliminated Canada’s deficit in the 1990s and developed rules that helped banks withstand the financial crisis, she said.

McKenna served as the Liberal premier of New Brunswick for a decade and is a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. He’s also chairman of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which controls office buildings and renewable-power sources.

Other Members

The council also includes: Miles Corak, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa; Blaine Flavel, chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan; Kevin Milligan, an economics professor at the University of British Columbia; Mike Moffatt, a professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business; Alain Paquet, an economics professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal who sat as a Liberal lawmaker in Quebec; and Sherri Torjman, vice president of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, a public policy research group that focuses on poverty reduction.

Trudeau is taking a page from the playbook of late finance minister Jim Flaherty, who named an economic advisory council to aid the government in 2008.

The list offers hints at how the Liberals plan to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives in the coming campaign. Corak, Milligan and Moffatt have all written about income inequality, an issue close to Trudeau’s heart, according to Morneau.

“He starts with the point of view that we’re only going to be successful if we generate growth, and that growth is only going to be able to be generated if people believe it can help them,” Morneau said.