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Budgets

Finance Ministers Wearing New Shoes on Budget Day

The Library of Parliament is frequently asked about the origins behind the “tradition” of finance ministers wearing new shoes on budget day. Hoping to solve the riddle once and for all, we undertook a systematic search and discovered the following:

The notion that this practice stems from a British tradition can be laid to rest. We have it from the British High Commission that Westminster tradition allows the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry into the House an “old despatch box” and to take any liquid refreshment of his own choosing while delivering his budget speech. At least one Canadian minister of Finance, William S. Fielding (1898–1911, 1922–1923), somewhat followed this British custom by entering the House of Commons with his “little red despatch box.”

The Canadian practice of wearing new shoes seems to be fairly recent, and in spite of our efforts, its origin remains mysterious. In an attempt to solve this mystery, we spoke with every finance minister (or an assistant) from Douglas C. Abbott to Michael Wilson. From these conversations we learned that none of these ministers were certain of the origin of this practice. Some believe it is a British tradition, others say it isn’t a Canadian tradition at all, while still others state that the tradition is of fairly recent origin, dating back only to the fifties or sixties.

We checked Hansard from 1938 to 1970 and read newspaper reports of budget presentations since 1930. The first mention of new shoes appeared on March 31, 1960, when Donald Fleming was finance minister. A newspaper report refers to the new shoes as a budget tradition, but there is no indication as to its origin, nor details as to the type of shoes worn by the Minister. Our research shows that there is much room for variation, including an occasional tendency to interpret the type of shoes worn as an indicator of the content of the budget. 

Finally, in Minister Mitchel Sharp’s memoir, he indicates the following:

“I even managed to establish a Canadian tradition – unintentionally.  My staff had been told – probably by a shoe manufacturer – that it was traditional for a minister of finance when presenting his first budget to wear a new pair of shoes. I fell for it. So did the press, which gave enormous publicity to my new shoes. About five years ago an investigative journalist, searching for the origins of the tradition that most of my successors followed, could not find that any of my predecessors as minister of finance had worn new shoes at budget time. Was it traditional? Perhaps not in 1965. It is now, after more than a quarter of a century.”

  1. Wilding, Norman and Philip Laundy. An encyclopedia of Parliament. See Despatch box; Budget Box. House Magazine 10:1, March 15, 1985; Le nouveau budget britannique ouvre la voie à des élections anticipées. Le Devoir 16 mars 1987. p. 5.

  2. Idem. See Budget.

  3. Ottawa Journal March 2, 1943; June 21, 1946.

  4. House of Commons. Debates. Nov. 30, 1967. p. 4899.

  5. Robert Bryce, the Finance Dept. historian, having stated that no such practice existed during the thirties or before.

  6. Jeffries, Maurice. Fleming to reveal all tonight: Balance chief goal so auto, other levies stay high. Windsor Star, March 31, 1960.

  7. Beauchesne, Eric. Flaherty proving he’s family friendly. Regina Leader-Post, March 19, 2007, p. A1 and Beltrame, Julian. Flaherty ready to unveil a thrifty budget in re-soled shoes. Moose Jaw Times Herald, Feb. 25, 2008, p. A5.

  8. Sharp, Mitchell (1994). Which Reminds Me…A Memoir. University of Toronto Press, p.128.


Parliament Type of Budget Speech Date of Speech Minister of Finance New Shoes?
42nd Budget Speech 2016-03-22 Morneau, Bill Yes
42nd Budget Speech 2017-03-22 Morneau, Bill Yes
42nd Economic Statement Speech 2016-11-01 Morneau, Bill No
42nd Economic Statement Speech 2017-10-24 Morneau, Bill No
42nd Budget Speech 2018-02-27 Morneau, Bill Yes
41st Budget Speech 2014-02-11 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
41st Budget Speech 2012-03-29 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
41st Budget Speech 2011-06-06 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
41st Budget Speech 2013-03-21 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
41st Economic and Fiscal Update Speech 2014-11-12 Oliver, Joe No
41st Economic and Fiscal Statement Speech 2013-11-12 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
41st Budget Speech 2015-04-21 Oliver, Joe Yes
41st Economic and Fiscal Statement Speech 2012-11-13 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
41st Economic and Fiscal Update Speech 2011-11-08 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
40th Economic and Fiscal Update   2009-09-10 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
40th Budget Speech 2010-03-04 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
40th Budget Speech 2009-01-27 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
40th Economic and Fiscal Statement Speech 2008-11-27 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
40th Economic and Fiscal Update Speech 2010-10-12 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
40th Budget Speech 2011-03-22 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
39th Budget Speech 2007-03-19 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
39th Economic and Fiscal Update   2006-11-23 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) No
39th Economic Statement Speech 2007-10-30 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
39th Budget Speech 2008-02-26 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
39th Budget Speech 2006-05-02 Flaherty, James Michael (Jim) Yes
38th Budget Speech 2005-02-23 Goodale, Ralph Yes
38th Economic and Fiscal Update   2005-11-14 Goodale, Ralph No
38th Economic and Fiscal Update   2004-11-16 Goodale, Ralph No
37th Economic Update   2001-05-17 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
37th Budget Speech 2003-02-18 Manley, John Paul No
37th Budget Speech 2004-03-23 Goodale, Ralph Yes
37th Economic and Fiscal Update   2002-10-30 Manley, John Paul No
37th Budget Speech 2001-12-10 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
37th Economic and Fiscal Update   2003-11-03 Manley, John Paul No
36th Budget Speech 1998-02-24 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
36th Economic and Fiscal Update   1997-10-15 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
36th Economic Statement and Budget Update Speech 2000-10-18 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
36th Economic and Fiscal Update   1998-10-14 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
36th Budget Speech 1999-02-16 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
36th Economic and Fiscal Update   1999-11-02 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
36th Financial Statement Speech 2000-02-28 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
35th Economic and Fiscal Update   1995-12-06 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
35th Economic and Fiscal Update   1996-10-09 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
35th Budget Speech 1997-02-18 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
35th Budget Speech 1995-02-27 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
35th Budget Speech 1996-03-06 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
35th Budget Speech 1994-02-22 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe Yes
35th Economic and Fiscal Update   1994-10-18 Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe No
34th Financial Statement Speech 1989-04-27 Wilson, Michael Holcombe Yes
34th Budget Speech 1992-02-25 Mazankowski, Donald Frank No
34th Financial Statement Speech 1993-04-26 Mazankowski, Donald Frank No
34th Financial Statement Speech 1992-12-02 Mazankowski, Donald Frank No
34th Budget Speech 1990-02-20 Wilson, Michael Holcombe No
34th Budget Speech 1991-02-26 Wilson, Michael Holcombe No
33rd Budget Speech 1988-02-10 Wilson, Michael Holcombe Yes
33rd Budget Speech 1987-02-18 Wilson, Michael Holcombe Yes
33rd Budget Speech 1985-05-23 Wilson, Michael Holcombe Yes
33rd Budget Speech 1986-02-26 Wilson, Michael Holcombe Yes
33rd Economic Statement Speech 1984-11-08 Wilson, Michael Holcombe No
32nd Budget Speech 1984-02-15 Lalonde, Marc Yes
32nd Budget Speech 1982-06-28 MacEachen, Allan Joseph No
32nd Budget Speech 1981-11-12 MacEachen, Allan Joseph No
32nd Mini-Budget - Economic Statement Speech 1982-10-27 Lalonde, Marc No
32nd Mini-Budget Speech 1980-04-21 MacEachen, Allan Joseph No
32nd Budget Speech 1983-04-19 Lalonde, Marc No
32nd Budget Speech 1980-10-28 MacEachen, Allan Joseph No
31st Budget Speech 1979-12-11 Crosbie, John Carnell Yes
30th Budget Speech 1977-03-31 Macdonald, Donald Stovel No
30th Budget Speech 1976-05-25 Macdonald, Donald Stovel No
30th Budget Speech 1978-04-10 Chrétien, Joseph Jacques Jean Yes
30th Budget Speech 1974-11-18 Turner, John Napier No
30th Budget Speech 1978-11-16 Chrétien, Joseph Jacques Jean Yes
30th Budget Speech 1975-06-23 Turner, John Napier No
30th Mini-Budget Speech 1977-10-20 Chrétien, Joseph Jacques Jean No
29th Budget Speech 1974-05-06 Turner, John Napier No
29th Budget Speech 1973-02-19 Turner, John Napier No
28th Interim-Budget Speech 1970-12-03 Benson, Edgar John No
28th Mini-Budget Speech 1971-10-14 Benson, Edgar John No
28th Budget Speech 1972-05-08 Turner, John Napier No
28th Budget Speech 1969-06-03 Benson, Edgar John No
28th Budget Speech 1971-06-18 Benson, Edgar John No
28th Budget Speech 1968-10-22 Benson, Edgar John No
28th Budget Speech 1970-03-12 Benson, Edgar John No
27th Budget Speech 1966-03-29 Sharp, Mitchell William Yes
27th Budget Speech 1967-06-01 Sharp, Mitchell William Yes
27th Financial Statement Speech 1967-11-30 Sharp, Mitchell William No
27th Mini-Budget Speech 1966-12-19 Sharp, Mitchell William No
26th Budget Speech 1963-06-13 Gordon, Walter Lockhart No
26th Budget Speech 1965-04-26 Gordon, Walter Lockhart No
26th Budget Speech 1964-03-16 Gordon, Walter Lockhart No
24th Budget Speech 1962-04-10 Fleming, Donald Methuen No
24th Budget Speech 1960-03-31 Fleming, Donald Methuen Yes
24th Supplementary Budget Speech 1960-12-20 Fleming, Donald Methuen No
24th Budget Speech 1958-06-17 Fleming, Donald Methuen No
24th Budget Speech 1959-04-09 Fleming, Donald Methuen No
24th Budget Speech 1961-06-20 Fleming, Donald Methuen No
23rd Financial Statement Speech 1957-12-06 Fleming, Donald Methuen No
22nd Budget Speech 1954-04-06 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
22nd Budget Speech 1955-04-05 Harris, Walter Edward Yes
22nd Budget Speech 1956-03-20 Harris, Walter Edward No
22nd Budget Speech 1957-03-14 Harris, Walter Edward No
21st Budget Speech 1951-04-10 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
21st Budget Speech 1949-10-20 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
21st Budget Speech 1950-03-28 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
21st Financial Statement Speech 1950-09-07 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
21st Budget Speech 1953-02-19 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
21st Budget Speech 1952-04-08 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
20th Budget Speech 1949-03-22 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
20th Budget Speech 1947-04-29 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
20th Budget Speech 1946-06-27 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
20th Budget Speech 1948-05-18 Abbott, Douglas Charles No
20th Budget Speech 1945-10-12 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
19th Budget Speech 1943-03-02 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
19th Budget Speech 1944-06-26 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
19th Budget Speech 1940-06-24 Ralston, James Layton No
19th Budget Speech 1941-04-29 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
19th Budget Speech 1942-06-23 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
18th Budget Speech 1939-04-25 Dunning, Charles Avery No
18th Financial Statement Speech 1939-09-12 Ilsley, James Lorimer No
18th Budget Speech 1938-06-16 Dunning, Charles Avery No
18th Budget Speech 1936-05-01 Dunning, Charles Avery No
18th Budget Speech 1937-02-25 Dunning, Charles Avery No
17th Budget Speech 1934-04-18 Rhodes, Edgar Nelson No
17th Budget Speech 1932-04-06 Rhodes, Edgar Nelson No
17th Budget Speech 1935-03-22 Rhodes, Edgar Nelson No
17th Budget Speech 1931-06-01 Bennett, Richard Bedford No
17th Budget Speech 1933-03-21 Rhodes, Edgar Nelson No
16th Budget Speech 1927-02-17 Robb, James Alexander No
16th Budget Speech 1929-03-01 Robb, James Alexander No
16th Budget Speech 1928-02-16 Robb, James Alexander No
16th Budget Speech 1930-05-01 Dunning, Charles Avery No
15th Budget Speech 1926-04-15 Robb, James Alexander No
14th Budget Speech 1924-04-10 Robb, James Alexander No
14th Budget Speech 1922-06-12 Fielding, William Stevens No
14th Budget Speech 1922-05-23 Fielding, William Stevens No
14th Budget Speech 1923-05-11 Fielding, William Stevens No
14th Budget Speech 1925-03-24 Robb, James Alexander No
13th Budget Speech 1919-06-05 White, Thomas No
13th Budget Speech 1920-05-18 Drayton, Henry Lumley No
13th Budget Speech 1921-05-09 Drayton, Henry Lumley No
13th Budget Speech 1918-04-30 Maclean, Alexander Kenneth No
12th Budget Speech 1915-02-11 White, Thomas No
12th Budget Speech 1913-05-12 White, Thomas No
12th Budget Speech 1916-02-15 White, Thomas No
12th Budget Speech 1917-04-24 White, Thomas No
12th Budget Speech 1914-08-20 White, Thomas No
12th Budget Speech 1912-03-13 White, Thomas No
12th Budget Speech 1914-04-06 White, Thomas No
11th Budget Speech 1909-04-20 Fielding, William Stevens No
11th Budget Speech 1911-04-04 Fielding, William Stevens No
11th Budget Speech 1909-12-14 Fielding, William Stevens No
10th Budget Speech 1905-07-06 Fielding, William Stevens No
10th Budget Speech 1908-03-17 Fielding, William Stevens No
10th Budget Speech 1906-05-22 Fielding, William Stevens No
10th Budget Speech 1906-11-29 Fielding, William Stevens No
9th Budget Speech 1901-03-14 Fielding, William Stevens No
9th Budget Speech 1902-03-17 Fielding, William Stevens No
9th Budget Speech 1903-04-16 Fielding, William Stevens No
9th Budget Speech 1904-06-07 Fielding, William Stevens No
8th Budget Speech 1898-04-05 Fielding, William Stevens No
8th Budget Speech 1900-03-23 Fielding, William Stevens No
8th Budget Speech 1899-05-02 Fielding, William Stevens No
8th Budget Speech 1897-04-22 Fielding, William Stevens No
7th Budget Speech 1891-06-23 Foster, George Eulas No
7th Budget Speech 1894-03-27 Foster, George Eulas No
7th Budget Speech 1893-02-14 Foster, George Eulas No
7th Budget Speech 1895-05-03 Foster, George Eulas No
7th Budget Speech 1892-03-22 Foster, George Eulas No
7th Budget Speech 1896-01-31 Foster, George Eulas No
6th Budget Speech 1889-03-05 Foster, George Eulas No
6th Budget Speech 1890-03-27 Foster, George Eulas No
6th Budget Speech 1888-04-27 Tupper, Charles No
6th Budget Speech 1887-05-12 Tupper, Charles No
5th Budget Speech 1886-03-30 McLelan, Archibald Woodbury No
5th Budget Speech 1884-02-29 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
5th Budget Speech 1885-03-03 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
5th Budget Speech 1883-03-30 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
4th Budget Speech 1882-02-24 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
4th Budget Speech 1879-03-14 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
4th Budget Speech 1881-02-18 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
4th Budget Speech 1880-03-09 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
3rd Budget Speech 1877-02-20 Cartwright, Richard John No
3rd Budget   1874-04-14 Cartwright, Richard John No
3rd Budget Speech 1876-02-25 Cartwright, Richard John No
3rd Budget Speech 1875-02-16 Cartwright, Richard John No
3rd Budget Speech 1878-02-22 Cartwright, Richard John No
2nd Budget   1873-04-01 Tilley, Samuel Leonard No
1st Budget Speech 1872-04-30 Hincks, Francis No
1st Budget Speech 1867-12-07 Rose, John No
1st Budget Speech 1871-03-10 Hincks, Francis No
1st Budget Speech 1869-05-07 Rose, John No
1st Budget Speech 1868-04-28 Rose, John No
1st Budget Speech 1870-04-07 Hincks, Francis No