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|
|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)|
|Service/branch||1st Canadian Survey Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery|
|Years of service||1941–1946|
Edgar John "Ben" Benson PC FCA (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 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 Canadian House of Commons 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.
Impact as Minister of Finance
- a capital gains tax that was severely criticized by the business community, particularly Israel Asper who wrote a book called The Benson Iceberg, which condemned the measure.
- a tax deduction for child care as a means of helping mothers enter the workforce.
- greater use of Registered Retirement Savings Plans.
The proposals were subjected to intensive debate that lasted more than a year, and were only passed after significant amendment, and then only through the use of closure. They came into effect in 1972. 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 instrument 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.
Later life and death
Benson was conferred honorary degrees as a Doctor of Laws from:
|Canadian federal election, 1962|
|Liberal||Edgar John Benson||16,828|
|Progressive Conservative||Benjamin Allmark||13,599|
|New Democratic||John McKinnon||1,468|
|Social Credit||Ernest Hogan||214|
|Canadian federal election, 1963|
|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|
|Canadian federal election, 1965|
|Liberal||Edgar John Benson||16,022|
|Progressive Conservative||J. Earl McEwen||12,766|
|New Democratic||John Meister||3,530|
|Canadian federal election, 1968|
|Progressive Conservative||Boggart Trumpour||11,799||36.1|
|New Democratic||Brendan McConnell||4,636||14.2|
|Total valid votes||32,669||100.0|
- Hustak 2011.
- "Radio station history - CKLC-FM". Canadian Communications Foundation.
- "Tax Reform (speech)". Empire Club of Canada. February 13, 1969.
- "Flags lowered for former School of Business professor". Queen's Gazette. Queen's University. September 9, 2011.
- 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.
- Canada. Dept. of Finance (1969), Proposals for tax reform, Ottawa: Queen's Printer
- Israel Asper (1970). The Benson iceberg: a critical analysis of the white paper on tax reform in Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company. OL 5396963M.
- Robert Hull (October 23, 1968). "Name makes tax no sweeter". The Windsor Star. p. 16.
- "Busy day for Mr. Benson". The Montreal Gazette. June 4, 1969. p. 16.
- "Setting an example?". The Windsor Star. March 13, 1970. p. 13.
- "Taking Control - The Canadian Transport Commission, 1967 to 1988". Canadian Transportation Agency. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- "Benson, Hon. Edgar J. (Non-career)". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
- "Edgar John Benson". Kingston Whig-Standard.
- "Honorary Degree Recipients 2008-2010". Queen's University. Retrieved April 11, 2013.