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FACTBOX-Leading contenders to replace Canadian finance minister

March 18 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce a replacement on Wednesday for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who resigned from politics on Tuesday after eight years in the finance post.

Besides looking for competence, reputation and ideological alignment, the Conservative prime minister will also weigh regional balance in picking the second most powerful job in the cabinet. Harper is from the western province of Alberta.

Here are leading contenders:

INDUSTRY MINISTER JAMES MOORE, 37

Moore, among the youngest ministers, is a rising star who is a formidable performer in the House of Commons in both official languages. Insiders say that despite his socially liberal views, he is one of the most fiscally conservative people around the cabinet table. One drawback is that he, like Harper, is from the West, but at least he is from British Columbia and not Alberta.

EMPLOYMENT MINISTER JASON KENNEY, 45

Kenney's profile rose after he took on the challenging and controversial assignment of overhauling Canada's immigration program as citizenship minister. He helped deliver the last election to the Conservatives through tireless outreach to ethnic communities. He, too, can think on his feet in both languages in the House, but unlike Moore he is a social conservative. He clashed with Flaherty in calling for the resignation of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford after revelations of crack smoking. His biggest drawback is he is from Alberta, but he has spent a lot of time in the Toronto area.

TREASURY BOARD PRESIDENT TONY CLEMENT, 53

Clement is in charge of the nitty-gritty running of the government and finding the spending cuts needed to be able to deliver tax cuts ahead of next year's general election. His biggest asset is that he is from Ontario and would help maintain regional balance in the cabinet. He is bilingual, but perhaps not quite as strong in French as Moore and Kenney. He also served as health minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOHN BAIRD, 45

Baird has willingly taken on whatever assignment Harper has thrown his way and can be a fierce attack dog in the House of Commons. He has served as Treasury Board president and ministers of transport and of environment. Insiders say he is enjoying his current portfolio, which has taken on added profile with the controversy over Crimea. From Ontario like Clement, one of his biggest pluses is he is not from Alberta.

NATURAL RESOURCES MINISTER JOE OLIVER, 73

Probably the oldest potential candidate for the job, Oliver is nonetheless a quick study and a tireless worker for the Conservative government. He has extensive experience in the financial industry, having served in senior roles at the Ontario Securities Commission, Investment Dealers Association of Canada and Merrill Lynch. Like Flaherty, he is from the Toronto area, which will be critical in the next election. He has been a proponent of Canadian oil pipelines, including the proposed Keystone XL line to the United States. His biggest drawback is his age, for a government that will want to present a fresh face in the 2015 election after nine years in office.

JUNIOR FINANCE MINISTER KEVIN SORENSON, 55

As minister of state for finance since July, Sorenson gained national profile with strong performances as a stand-in for Flaherty when the minister was ailing. But he has not been a full cabinet minister and he also suffers from being from Alberta.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Leslie Adler)