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The Minister of Finance's New Shoes 1946 to date

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 their 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.

Our research shows that only eight finance ministers wore new shoes on budget day, and even here there is some variation. Donald Fleming was the first for whom we found a record, followed by ministers Sharp, Chrétien, Lalonde, Wilson, Martin (who wore new boots as a gift from Jean Chrétien), Goodale and Flaherty. (An additional minister appears on the footwear list indirectly, since John Crosbie wore used mukluks to present the budget in 1979.)

We also 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.

Other people were also contacted – political analysts, academics, journalists, public servants – but no one could shed new light on the issue.


  1. Wilding, Norman amd Philip Laundy. An encyclopedia of Parliament. See Despatch box; Budget Box. House Magazine 10:1, 3 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.
69 budgets

^Budgets tabled by
Flaherty, James Michael (Jim)  (2006.05.02 - 2014.02.11 )
Date ShoesSource
2014.02.11 Wore new shoes ; a pair of steel-toed black wingtips Hamilton Spectator, 2014.02.07
2013.03.21 Wore new shoes ; $158 black leather Oxford lace-ups Press Release - Finance Canada, Toronto Sun, 2013.03.20
2012.03.29 Wore new shoes ; $138.98 black lace-up shoes (insoles and tax included). Times Colonist, 2012.03.29
2011.06.06 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon. J. Flaherty's office
2011.03.22 Did not wear new shoes ; wore resoled dress shoes. Toronto Sun Website, 2011.03.21
2010.03.04 Wore new shoes ; $271.20 ECCO shoes. CBC Website,2010.03.02
2009.01.27 Wore new shoes ; wore steel-toed $141.09 Airflex II work shoes. Ottawa Citizen, 2009.01.27
2008.02.26 Did not wear new shoes ; wore resoled brogues. Times & Transcript, 2008.02.25
2007.03.19 Did not wear new shoes ; purchased a pair of Canadian-made skates for his son John. Winnipeg Free Press, 2007.03.19
2006.05.02 Wore new shoes ; wore $185 shoes. Globe and Mail, 2006.05.02

^Budgets tabled by
Goodale, Ralph  (2004.03.23 - 2005.02.23 )
Date ShoesSource
2005.02.23 Wore new shoes ; wore black square-toed $250 Ecco shoes with polyurethane soles. Globe and Mail, 2005.02.23
2004.03.23 Wore new shoes ; wore black oxfords. Toronto Sun, 2004.03.24

^Budgets tabled by
Manley, John Paul  (2003.02.18 - 2003.02.18 )
Date ShoesSource
2003.02.18 Did not wear new shoes National Post, 2003.02.19

^Budgets tabled by
Martin, Paul Edgar Philippe  (1994.02.22 - 2001.12.10 )
Date ShoesSource
2001.12.10 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon P. Martin's press attaché
1999.02.16 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon P. Martin's press attaché
1998.02.24 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon P. Martin's press attaché
1997.02.18 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon P. Martin's press attaché
1996.03.06 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon P. Martin's press attaché
1995.02.27 Did not wear new shoes confirmed with Hon P. Martin's press attaché
1994.02.22 Wore new shoes ; wore work boots. Toronto Star, 1994.02.22

^Budgets tabled by
Mazankowski, Donald Frank  (1992.02.25 - 1992.02.25 )
Date ShoesSource
1992.02.25 Did not wear new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1992.02.25

^Budgets tabled by
Wilson, Michael Holcombe  (1985.05.23 - 1991.02.26 )
Date ShoesSource
1991.02.26 Did not wear new shoes Canadian Press Newswire, 1991.02.26
1990.02.20 Did not wear new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1990.02.20
1988.02.10 Wore new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1988.02.10
1987.02.18 Wore new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1987.02.18
1986.02.26 Wore new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1986.02.25
1985.05.23 Wore new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1985.05.23

^Budgets tabled by
Lalonde, Marc  (1983.04.19 - 1984.02.15 )
Date ShoesSource
1984.02.15 Wore new shoes Ottawa Citizen, 1984.02.15
1983.04.19 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
MacEachen, Allan Joseph  (1980.10.28 - 1982.06.28 )
Date ShoesSource
1982.06.28 Unknown  
1981.11.12 Unknown  
1980.10.28 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Crosbie, John Carnell  (1979.12.11 - 1979.12.11 )
Date ShoesSource
1979.12.11 Did not wear new shoes ; wore used mukluks. Ottawa Journal, 1979.12.11

^Budgets tabled by
Chrétien, Joseph Jacques Jean  (1978.04.10 - 1978.11.16 )
Date ShoesSource
1978.11.16 Wore new shoes Ottawa Journal, 1978.11.16
1978.04.10 Wore new shoes Ottawa Journal, 1978.04.11

^Budgets tabled by
Macdonald, Donald Stovel  (1976.05.25 - 1977.03.31 )
Date ShoesSource
1977.03.31 Unknown  
1976.05.25 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Turner, John Napier  (1972.05.08 - 1975.06.23 )
Date ShoesSource
1975.06.23 Unknown  
1974.11.18 Unknown  
1974.05.06 Unknown  
1973.02.19 Unknown  
1972.05.08 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Benson, Edgar John  (1968.10.22 - 1971.06.18 )
Date ShoesSource
1971.06.18 Unknown  
1970.03.12 Unknown  
1969.06.03 Unknown  
1968.10.22 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Sharp, Mitchell William  (1966.03.29 - 1967.06.01 )
Date ShoesSource
1967.06.01 Wore new shoes  
1966.03.29 Wore new shoes House of Commons Debates, 1967.11.30, p. 4899

^Budgets tabled by
Gordon, Walter Lockhart  (1963.06.13 - 1965.04.26 )
Date ShoesSource
1965.04.26 Did not wear new shoes CBC Interview with the Hon. Walter Gordon, 26 April 1965
1964.03.16 Did not wear new shoes CBC Interview with the Hon. Walter Gordon, 26 April 1965
1963.06.13 Did not wear new shoes CBC Interview with the Hon. Walter Gordon, 26 April 1965

^Budgets tabled by
Fleming, Donald Methuen  (1958.06.17 - 1962.04.10 )
Date ShoesSource
1962.04.10 Unknown  
1961.06.20 Unknown  
1960.03.31 Wore new shoes Windsor Star, 1960.03.31
1959.04.09 Unknown  
1958.06.17 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Harris, Walter Edward  (1955.04.05 - 1957.03.14 )
Date ShoesSource
1957.03.14 Unknown  
1956.03.20 Unknown  
1955.04.05 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Abbott, Douglas Charles  (1947.04.29 - 1954.04.06 )
Date ShoesSource
1954.04.06 Unknown  
1953.02.19 Unknown  
1952.04.08 Unknown  
1951.04.10 Unknown  
1950.03.28 Unknown  
1949.10.20 Unknown  
1949.03.22 Unknown  
1948.05.18 Unknown  
1947.04.29 Unknown  

^Budgets tabled by
Ilsley, James Lorimer  (1946.06.27 - 1946.06.27 )
Date ShoesSource
1946.06.27 Unknown  
^

Updated on: 2014.02.11

Revised on: 2014.02.11

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