Michael Holcombe Wilson, PC CC (born 4 November 1937) is a Canadian diplomat, politician and business leader.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Wilson attended Upper Canada College and then Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he joined the Kappa Alpha Society. He was a Bay Street investment executive when he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament in the 1979 general election. He served in various portfolios in the governments of Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney. He served as the Canadian Ambassador to the United States from 2006 until 2009, when he was succeeded by Gary Doer.
Early political career
Wilson was a candidate at the 1983 Progressive Conservative leadership convention. He tried to woo young delegates by having the rock group Spoons perform on his behalf. He dropped off after the first ballot, and urged his supporters to vote for the eventual winner, Brian Mulroney.
Mulroney appointed Wilson as Minister of Finance when the party formed a government after the 1984 election.
He reformed the tax system to broaden the tax base and lower tax rates, removing many special tax provisions, and helped negotiate the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement. Wilson also introduced the Goods and Services Tax in 1990, a tax which is still in place today and is considered a necessary source of federal income, despite being unpopular with consumers.
In 1991, after seven years as Minister of Finance, Wilson became Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and Minister of International Trade. In that role, he participated in negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Return to private life
Wilson was not a candidate in the 1993 election, and returned to Bay Street to head his own consulting and financial services firm. He later rejoined Royal Bank of Canada and was Chairman and CEO of RT Capital when that business was sold to UBS AG. Wilson was formerly Chairman of UBS Canada.
In recent years he has become a spokesman for a lobby group promoting public–private partnership. He was Chairman of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance. In September 2003, Wilson was installed as chancellor of Trinity College.
He is a mental health advocate, having lost a son to depression and suicide; he established the Cameron Parker Holcombe Wilson Chair in Depression Studies at the University of Toronto. He also sits on the board of directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
He is active in many other organizations, including the NeuroScience Canada Partnership, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, the Loran Scholars Foundation, the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
On 30 October 2003, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2010.
On April 9, 2015 it was announced that Wilson was appointed the new board chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada
He is also a member of the Trilateral Commission.
Ambassador to the United States
On 16 February 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the nomination of Wilson as Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America. He succeeded Frank McKenna in Washington, D.C. Wilson became the 22nd Canadian Ambassador to the United States on 13 March 2006 when U.S. President George W. Bush accepted his credentials.
Allegation of leaks during 2008 Democratic presidential campaign
In March 2008, it was alleged that Wilson told the Canadian media that US Presidential candidate Barack Obama was not serious about his promise to opt out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Liberal MP Navdeep Bains called on Wilson to step down as Canada's ambassador to Washington while the alleged leaks are investigated. Wilson has publicly acknowledged that he spoke to then-CTV reporter Tom Clark, who first reported the leaks, before the story aired, but refused to discuss what was said.