What is Canada's Finance Minister's budget shoe tradition? What to know

Breaking down the details about the little-known Canadian political tradition.

Ahead of the 2023 federal budget announcement, Canada's Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has some important shoes to fill — both literally and figuratively.

Leading up to Tuesday's budget reveal, Freeland stopped by a Simons store on Monday to pick herself up a new pair of heels. She reportedly described the (on sale) $100 black pumps as "comfortable, practical [and] on sale," and paid for them herself.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tries on a new pair of shoes in Ottawa on Monday, March 27, 2023. Freeland will table the federal budget on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tries on a new pair of shoes in Ottawa on Monday, March 27, 2023. Freeland will table the federal budget on Tuesday. (Photo via THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

In case you're unfamiliar with why such an event would be considered newsworthy, it's worth noting the history behind the action: For years, finance ministers have taken part in a mysterious tradition involving the purchase of a new pair of shoes before each year's federal budget announcement.

But where does the tradition come from? And what exactly does it mean for modern Canadians? We're breaking it all down ahead.

What is Canada's budget shoe tradition?

Typically, the finance minister is joined by journalists and photographers on a shopping expedition leading up to their budget speech.

While the "new shoe tradition" has been taking place since the 1950s, it's unclear exactly why it started. Some suggest that the practice was borrowed from the United Kingdom, but one of the earliest mentions of the "tradition" was found in a March 1960 newspaper article about then-Finance Minister Donald Fleming.

What do the shoes represent?

Although the event can be marked by the purchase of just about any pair of shoes, ministers usually opt for a pair that falls in line with the year's budgetary concerns. New shoes might suggest plenty of funds for the year ahead, while Canadian-made shoes could suggest an investment in Canadian business.

In 2022, Freeland opted for a pair of $138 block heel pumps from Montreal-based brand L'Intervalle. This year's "comfortable, practical [and] on sale" shoes are in line with her comments surrounding the 2023 budget.

"We’re unveiling the next steps of our plan to deliver meaningful support for Canadians; stronger public health care; and significant investments that will support great careers in a clean economy," Freeland tweeted on Monday.

What are Canadians saying

Given that the budget shoe tradition goes hand in hand with media coverage, there has been plenty of chatter online surrounding this year's purchase.

While some commended Freeland's attempt to support a Canadian business, others were disappointed that the shoes in question are actually made in Brazil.

Others found the tradition to be "foolish" — particularly in light of the struggles that many Canadians are facing as costs of living continue to rise.

Given the generally negative reaction to the tradition, some Twitter users instead offered up alternatives to purchasing a pair of new shoes.

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