Old Boys at Career Day - Tiff Macklem '78

By Richard wills, Publications Editor
Although he has risen quickly to the top of his profession, Tiff Macklem ’78 insists he had “no master plan” when he started out in search of a career.
Although he has risen quickly to the top of his profession, Tiff Macklem ’78 insists he had “no master plan” when he started out in search of a career. Tiff was appointed Associate Deputy Minister of Finance last November. Prior to that, he had served as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada since 2004, having joined the central bank in 1984 and having served in several senior positions.

Not bad for a guy who claims he was not very good in math when he attended Selwyn House. Being more drawn to the social sciences, Tiff only began to sharpen his math skills once he found a practical application for them.

After switching his major from geography, Tiff earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Queen’s University and a master’s degree and PhD in economics from the University of Western Ontario.

“Economics brings math and the social sciences together,” Tiff explained, pointing out that it is the only social science that is awarded a Nobel Prize.

He defined economics as “the study of choices and decisions in a world with limited resources.” These individual decisions, when viewed collectively, define a nation’s economy. As G7 Deputy that he travels with Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and advises him when he attends global conferences like the G-7 and G-20 summits or the Financial Stability Forum. His job is not political. Tiff holds no political allegiance, and has worked for both Liberal and Conservative governments.

While the Bank of Canada prints and distributes money, fights counterfeiting, and works to keep inflation low and stable, the Department of Finance has a broader mandate. “We give the government the best possible policy advice,” Tiff says.

This could include everything from tax policy to social policy, from federal-provincial relations to specific sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, energy or manufacturing. It requires Tiff to ponder fundamental questions such as what causes some countries to be rich and others poor, or what would happen if taxes were reduced, as well as more specific issues such as how to encourage CO2 reduction without disrupting the economy, or how best to deal with a global power shift toward emerging markets in China, India, Russia and Brazil.

The ministry must not only apply theoretical principles, but also crunch the numbers and statistics to apply them to public policy.

Once the data have been analyzed, the policies must be set and reports issued, which require communication and team-leadership skills, which he says are some of the most important requirements of his job. Also, because of constant changes in the global economic picture, “You have to keep learning throughout your career.”

Tiff sums up his job as “serving Canadians and trying to make the world a better place.” Perks include global travel and having “a front-row seat in a changing world.”