John McCallum

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The Honourable
John McCallum
John McCallum.jpg
Canadian Ambassador to China
Assumed office
March 18, 2017
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Preceded by Guy Saint-Jacques
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
In office
November 4, 2015 – January 10, 2017
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Preceded by Chris Alexander
Succeeded by Ahmed Hussen
Minister of National Revenue
In office
July 19, 2004 – February 5, 2006
Prime Minister Paul Martin
Preceded by Stan Keyes
Succeeded by Carol Skelton
Minister of Veterans Affairs
In office
December 12, 2003 – July 19, 2004
Prime Minister Paul Martin
Preceded by Rey Pagtakhan
Succeeded by Albina Guarnieri
35th Minister of National Defence
In office
May 26, 2002 – December 11, 2003
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Preceded by Art Eggleton
Succeeded by David Pratt
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Markham—Thornhill
In office
October 19, 2015 – February 1, 2017
Preceded by Riding Established
Succeeded by Mary Ng
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Markham—Unionville
Markham (2000-2004)
In office
November 27, 2000 – October 19, 2015
Preceded by Jim Jones
Succeeded by Bob Saroya
Personal details
Born ( 1950-04-09) April 9, 1950 (age 67)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Nancy Lim
Children 3
Residence Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater Queens' College, Cambridge
Université de Paris
McGill University
Profession Author, Economist, Academic, Diplomat

John McCallum PC (Chinese: 麦家廉, born April 9, 1950) is a Canadian politician, economist, university professor and diplomat. A former Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), McCallum is the current Canadian Ambassador to China.[1] As an MP, he represented the electoral district of Markham—Thornhill, and has previously represented Markham—Unionville and Markham. He is a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

A veteran federal politician who began his political career in 2000, McCallum has served in the governments of Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and Justin Trudeau. McCallum has previously been Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Minister of National Defence, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.


McCallum was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Joan (Patteson) and Alexander Campbell McCallum.[2] He received his secondary education at Selwyn House School and Trinity College School.[3] He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens' College, Cambridge University, a diplôme d'études supérieures from Université de Paris and a Doctorate in economics from McGill University. He was a professor of economics at the University of Manitoba from 1976 until 1978, Simon Fraser University from 1978 until 1982, the Université du Québec à Montréal from 1982 until 1987, and McGill University from 1987 until 1994. He is an honorary member of the Royal Military College of Canada, student #S139. He was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts at McGill University. He then became Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist of the Royal Bank of Canada.

Academic career (1976-94)[edit]

One of his most influential academic contributions was an article in The American Economic Review,[4] which introduced the concept of the home bias in trade puzzle. It has spawned an ongoing international debate[citation needed] on whether trade within a nation state is greater than trade among nations, as compared with the predictions of standard economic models.

As McGill University’s Dean of Arts, McCallum secured a $10 million contribution from Charles Bronfman for the establishment of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.[5]

He also participated in the national unity debates of the early 1990s, editing the Canada Round Series of the C. D. Howe Institute and engaging in debate with then Opposition Leader Jacques Parizeau at Quebec's National Assembly.[6]

Private sector career (1994-2000)[edit]

McCallum was the Royal Bank of Canada’s chief economist for six years. He consistently achieved the highest media coverage of bank chief economists, making regular appearances on CBC's The National as an economics panellist. He also engaged in social issues, notably a 1997 Royal Bank conference designed to align the business community with the recommendations of the 1996 Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. His paper at that conference, "The Cost of Doing Nothing," was highlighted ten years later in Aboriginal Times Magazine.[7]

Political career[edit]

Backbencher under Chretien[edit]

McCallum successfully nominated Nelson Mandela as the second honorary citizen in Canadian history.[8]

McCallum was quite vocal in Canada's debate on same-sex marriage. He told the Edmonton Sun in August 2003, "If people want to do something and it doesn’t hurt other people, doesn’t reduce other people’s rights, we should let them do it. Why not?"[9] He also significantly contributed to the final debate before the vote on same-sex marriage on 21 March 2005[10] saying:

I believe we should always seek to expand the rights of our fellow citizens as long as we do not thereby reduce the rights of others. We should seek to ensure that no group is denied full participation in society. As members of Parliament, we should not ask the question, why should we extend this right? Rather our question should be, why should we not extend the right? Let the burden of proof be on those who wish to limit fundamental rights.


Many Canadians will want to accept both of these principles: protect the traditional definition of marriage and protect the rights of minorities. The essence of my message today is that we cannot do both. We cannot have it both ways. We must make a choice between traditional marriage and the protection of minority rights.

Defence Minister (2002-2003)[edit]

As Defence Minister under Jean Chretien, McCallum achieved what was then the largest increase in the annual defence budget ($1 billion) in more than a decade in return for offering up $200 million in savings from reducing low priority spending.[11] He also retroactively reversed an inequity which awarded up to $250,000 to military personnel who lost their eyesight or a limb while on active service - but only to those with the rank of colonel or above. Now all Canadian Forces members are covered by the plan regardless of rank.[12] Working with Germany, he successfully persuaded NATO to take control over the security mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, while also ensuring that the mission was led by Canada.[13] He also determined that the army, rather than the navy or air force, was to be the top priority in budget allocations.[14]

He became widely known and criticized in 2002 when he admitted, while serving as the Minister of National Defence, that he had never heard of the 1942 Dieppe raid, a fateful and nationally significant operation for Canadian Forces during the Second World War.[15] Ironically, he wrote a letter to the editor of the National Post in response, but committed a further gaffe, confusing Canadian participation in the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge in France with Vichy France from 1940 to 1944. Response at the continued historical ignorance prompted outrage and humour among the press.

In November 2002, while still serving as Defence Minister, McCallum encountered further controversy when officials refused to allow him to board an Air Canada flight because his breath smelt heavily of alcohol. McCallum announced soon thereafter that the incident prompted him to abstain completely from alcohol consumption. He reportedly also intended to lose weight and give up smoking.[16]

In January 2003, McCallum suggested Canadian troops could avoid so-called "friendly fire" incidents by wearing some of female Conservative MP Elsie Wayne's clothes.[17] McCallum later apologized both inside and outside the House of Commons for using inappropriate language, blaming the excitement of the moment, and had his apologies accepted by Wayne.[17]

Veterans Affairs Minister (2003-2004)[edit]

Under Paul Martin, McCallum introduced a new charter for younger, postwar veterans who have been physically or mentally injured while serving in the Canadian Forces. This charter, which became law in 2005, is modelled on the range of services provided for returning veterans after World War II. This "new model" stripped veterans of a monthly pension opting for a lump sum payment.[citation needed]

Expenditure Review Committee[edit]

As Chair of the Cabinet's Expenditure Review Committee, McCallum achieved in 2005 expenditure reductions of $11 billion over the next five years.[18]

In opposition, immigration critic (2006-2015)[edit]

When the Conservatives came to power in January 2006 under Stephen Harper, McCallum was made immigration critic.

Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees (2015 to 2017)[edit]

On 4 November 2015, he was appointed the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in the newly-elected 29th Canadian Ministry of Justin Trudeau.[19] As a senior cabinet minister, McCallum was then fourth in line in case of the PM's incapacity.[20]

Ambassador to China[edit]

In the 10 January 2017 cabinet reshuffle, McCallum stepped down from his post at CIC and was announced as Canada’s ambassador to China.[21]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Nancy Lim and has three sons.

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal John McCallum 23,878 55.72 +18.61 $78,406.90
Conservative Jobson Easow 13,849 32.31 -4.08 $128,323.59
New Democratic Senthi Chelliah 4,595 10.72 -12.67 $48,598.52
Green Joshua Russell 535 1.25 -1.37
Total valid votes/Expense limit 42,857 100.00   $203,953.81
Total rejected ballots 240 0.56
Turnout 43,097 61.14
Eligible voters 70,484
Liberal notional hold Swing +11.34
Source: Elections Canada[22][23]
Canadian federal election, 2011: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal John McCallum 19,429 38.9 -16.0
Conservative Bob Saroya 17,734 35.5 +5.3
New Democratic Nadine Hawkins 10,897 21.8 +11.6
Green Adam Poon 1,597 3.2 -1.0
Libertarian Allen Small 231 0.5
Total valid votes 49,888 100.0
Total rejected ballots 290 0.6
Turnout 50,178 55.1 +2.8
Eligible voters 91,057
Liberal hold Swing -10.65
Canadian federal election, 2008: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal John McCallum 25,195 54.9 -6.7 $58,875
Conservative Duncan Fletcher 13,855 30.2 +3.2 $58,523
New Democratic Nadine Hawkins 4,682 10.2 +2.2 $4,250
Green Leonard Aitken 1,931 4.2 +2.0 $2,524
Libertarian Allen Small 229 0.5 N/A $348
Total valid votes/Expense limit 45,892 100.0 $90,945
Turnout 52.31
Liberal hold Swing -4.95
Canadian federal election, 2006: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal John McCallum 32,797 61.6 -4.7
Conservative Joe Li 14,357 27.0 +4.5
New Democratic Janice Hagan 4,266 8.0 -0.7
Green Wesley Weese 1,151 2.2 -0.3
Progressive Canadian Fayaz Choudhary 363 0.7
Independent Partap Dua 297 0.6
Total valid votes 53,231 100.0
Liberal hold Swing -4.6
Canadian federal election, 2004: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes %
Liberal John McCallum 30,442 66.3
Conservative Joe Li 10,325 22.5
New Democratic Janice Hagan 3,993 8.7
Green Ed Wong 1,148 2.5
Total valid votes 45,908 100.0
Canadian federal election, 2000: Markham
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal John McCallum 32,104 66.6 +29.9
Alliance Jim Jones 9,015 18.7 +7.9
Progressive Conservative David Scrymgeour 5,085 10.6 -34.1
New Democratic Janice Hagan 1,129 2.3 -0.9
Green Bernadette Manning 493 1.0
Independent Akber Choudhry 222 0.5
Canadian Action Jim Conrad 130 0.3 -0.2
Total valid votes 48,178 100.0
Liberal gain from Progressive Conservative Swing +32.0



  1. ^ Canada’s new ambassador to Beijing says Ottawa open to ‘more, more, more’. Toronto Star, March 29, 2017.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ McCallum, John (1995). "National Borders Matter: Canada-U.S. Regional Trade Patterns". The American Economic Review. 85 (3): 615–623. JSTOR 2118191. 
  5. ^ McGill gets $10 million for studies on Canada. Montreal Gazette 16 June 1993, pg A4
  6. ^ Anti-Quebec vitriol aids PQ: economist McGill professor, Pequiste chief Parizeau wage war of charts. Montreal Gazette 5 December 1991 pg A9
  7. ^ Aboriginal Times Magazine. Vol 12, Issue 4, May–June 2007
  8. ^ Nelson Mandela, Citizen. Toronto Star, 14 June 2001 pg A32
  9. ^ Edmonton Sun, 13 August 2003
  10. ^ Hansard - Civil Marriage Act (C-38) debate - John McCallum (Lib)
  11. ^ The Budget Plan 2003, page 163
  12. ^ Bill C-44, An Act to compensate military members injured during service, 37th Parliament, 2nd session
  13. ^ Canadian troops to be deployed to Afghanistan: 2,000 soldiers to join NATO force in Kabul; National Post 6 May 2003, pg A4
  14. ^ McCallum sets top priorities; Hill Times, 8 September 2003 pg 1
  15. ^ "MQUP prank". 
  16. ^ Lunman, Kim (29 November 2002). "McCallum on the wagon after incident at airport". Globe and Mail. Toronto. pp. A13. 
  17. ^ a b "Defence minister apologizes twice for insensitive remarks". CBC News. 29 January 2003. 
  18. ^ McCallum on the hunt for $1-billion more in savings. Hill Times 5 March 2005, pg 56
  19. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet: 31-member cabinet includes 15 women, attempt at regional balance". CBC News. 2015-11-04. 
  20. ^ McGregor, Janyce (7 November 2015). "Justin Trudeau's cabinet: 6 changes found in the fine print". CBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  21. ^ "Chrystia Freeland becomes foreign minister as Trudeau shuffles cabinet". CBC News. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  22. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Markham—Thornhill, 30 September 2015
  23. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Chris Alexander Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Ahmed Hussen
27th Ministry – Cabinet of Paul Martin
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Stan Keyes Minister of National Revenue
Carol Skelton
Rey Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs
Albina Guarnieri
26th Ministry – Cabinet of Jean Chrétien
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence
David Pratt
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)
Maurizio Bevilacqua
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Guy Saint-Jacques
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by