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The Honourable
Edgar John Benson
File:Edgar John Benson.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Kingston (1962–1968);
Kingston and the Islands (1968–1972)

In office
Preceded by Benjamin Graydon Allmark
Succeeded by Flora MacDonald
Personal details
Born May 28, 1923
Cobourg, Ontario
Died September 2, 2011(2011-09-02) (aged 88)
Ottawa, Ontario
Resting place Beechwood Cemetery
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Marie Louise van Laer (1946–1974)
Mary Jane Binks (1987–2011)
Alma mater Queen's University (1949)
Profession Chartered Accountant (1952)
Religion Protestant
Military service
Service/branch 1st Canadian Survey Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
Years of service 1941–1946
Rank Sergeant

Edgar John "Ben" Benson PC FCA (May 28, 1923 – September 2, 2011)[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4][5]

Political life

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 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.[2] He was later appointed Minister of Finance, serving from 1968 to 1972.

He served as Minister of National Defence from January to August 1972, when he retired from politics, choosing not to run in the 1972 election. He served as President of the Canadian Transport Commission from 1972 to 1982,[6] and as Canadian Ambassador to Ireland from 1982 to 1985.[7]

Impact as Minister of Finance

Benson wore a pair of new shoes on budget day in 1968, although he said, "He didn't buy them just for the budget."[8] The following year he did not wear new shoes when delivering the budget, saying jokingly that he couldn't afford them,[9] and in 1970 proudly displayed his worn soles on budget day.[10]

Benson's balanced budget for 1969–70 would be the last until Paul Martin's budget of 1997–98.[11] Later in 1969, he introduced his white paper on Canadian tax reform,[12] which paved the way for:

  • a capital gains tax that was severely criticized by the business community, particularly Israel Asper who wrote a book called The Benson Iceberg,[13] 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.[2] They came into effect in 1972.

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 was conferred honorary degrees as a Doctor of Laws from:

Electoral record


Canadian federal election, 1962
Party Candidate Votes
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
Party Candidate Votes
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
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal Edgar John Benson 16,022
Progressive Conservative J. Earl McEwen 12,766
New Democratic John Meister 3,530

Kingston and the Islands

Canadian federal election, 1968
Party Candidate Votes %
Liberal Edgar Benson 16,234 49.7
Progressive Conservative Boggart Trumpour 11,799 36.1
New Democratic Brendan McConnell 4,636 14.2
Total valid votes 32,669 100.0


  1. "Edgar John Benson". Kingston Whig-Standard. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hustak 2011.
  3. "Radio station history - CKLC-FM". Canadian Communications Foundation. 
  4. "Tax Reform (speech)". Empire Club of Canada. February 13, 1969. 
  5. "Flags lowered for former School of Business professor". Queen's University. 
  6. "Taking Control - The Canadian Transport Commission, 1967 to 1988". Canadian Transportation Agency. Retrieved April 10, 2013. 
  7. "Benson, Hon. Edgar J. (Non-career)". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. 
  8. Robert Hull (October 23, 1968). "Name makes tax no sweeter". p. 16. 
  9. "Busy day for Mr. Benson". June 4, 1969. p. 16. 
  10. "Setting an example?". March 13, 1970. p. 13. 
  11. 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. 
  12. Canada. Dept. of Finance (1969). "Proposals for tax reform". Queen's Printer. 
  13. Israel Asper (1970). The Benson iceberg: a critical analysis of the white paper on tax reform in Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company. OL5396963M. 
  14. "2008 Honorary Degree Recipients". Queen's University. Retrieved April 11, 2013. 

External links

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