The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick
Quebec Ink

Can Michael Sabia bend Ottawa to his will?

MONTREAL — Ottawa is on Michael Sabia watch.

When the noted mandarin and serial executive was named the next deputy finance minister, an appointment effective Monday, exactly how he will fare in the straitjacket of the country’s civil service has been the subject of speculation and “Who-shot-J.R.”-level conjecture.

At the root of this very nerdy parlour game is Sabia’s ego and temper. He has plenty of both, and, along with a ruthless work ethic, they have arguably served him well throughout his decades-long career, which began in the federal service, reached the peaks of corporate Canada and Quebec, Inc. and now deposits him in the No. 2 job at a ministry that directly oversaw $98.8 billion in annual spending in 2019–20.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau handpicked Sabia from a list of roughly 30 people, according to a Liberal source I spoke with who requested anonymity because they aren’t supposed to talk about such things. I’m told it took a few months and some doing to get Sabia to say yes.

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