MONTREAL — Bill Morneau told Quebec business leaders on Thursday he's always appreciated the province's open and friendly climate — but this time Canada's finance minister wasn't talking about investment.
Instead, Morneau began a speech to the Montreal Board of Trade with a tongue-in-cheek anecdote about how, on his first visit, a woman who would go on to become a prominent Quebec politician allowed him to share a room with his then-girlfriend.
"I'd like to start with a little story about my first experience with Quebec because I see Monique Jerome-Forget here today," Morneau began, referring to the province's finance minister between 2007 and 2009.
He went on to tell the crowd he once dated Jerome-Forget's daughter, Elise, while he was studying at the London School of Economics.
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau takes part in media interviews in the foyer of the House of Commons (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
When his she invited him home to visit her family in Montreal, Morneau accepted, albeit nervously.
"For those of you who don't know Monique's husband, Claude, he's a very well-presented man, he's very smart," Morneau said.
"He's a little intimidating when you're a 23-year-old with his daughter. Madame Jerome-Forget was a little bit intimidating as well."
After dinner, the Quebec couple stunned the young Torontonian by pointing out the sleeping arrangements: a shared room with Elise.
"As a boy from Toronto, that wasn't what parents said to you," Morneau said. "They would send the boy that way and the girl that way."
Morneau, who is now 53, described the experience as "terrifying."
"I woke up the next morning worried how are they going to look at me," he said. "Are they going to look whether I'm well-rested or whether I look really tired?"
That, Morneau said, was his introduction to Quebec.
"I've loved Quebec ever since, as a result," he concluded to loud applause.
The rest of Morneau's speech focused on promoting the Liberal party's budget and discussing the importance of partnerships and collaboration to ensure long-term economic growth.
With files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud
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