Jim Flaherty, former finance minister, dead at 64,
Jim Flaherty, one of
Canada's longest-serving finance ministers, who died suddenly Thursday,
will be remembered as a man of principle who helped steer the country's
finances through a calamitous global economic crisis.
Flaherty resigned in a surprise move last month following an eight-year
tenure overseeing the country's Finance Ministry. He said his decision
was not because of health reasons but because he planned to pave the way
for a re-entry to the private sector.
The cause of his sudden death at the age of 64 has not yet been
determined, but a close family friend told CBC News he suffered a heart
attack on Thursday.
It was also known that the Ontario MP for Whitby-Oshawa had a rare and
painful skin condition called bullous pemphigoid, which required
treatment with corticosteroids.
Together with his wife, Ontario Tory MPP Christine Elliott, Flaherty
raised three triplet boys — John, Galen and Quinn.
Flaherty, who grew up in an Irish household and had a penchant for
statement-making green neckties, was born Dec. 30, 1949 in Lachine,
Que., an area of Montreal's West Island.
Princeton hockey scholarship
He earned a scholarship to play hockey at Princeton University and also
graduated with a law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University in
Toronto, practising law for 20 years before entering politics.
He first ran in Ontario in 1990 but lost, coming in third place in the
riding of Durham Centre.
Former finance minister Jim Flaherty, shown wearing one of his
characteristic green ties, died Thursday at the age of 64, He is
survived by his wife, Christine Elliott, and their three sons. (Blair
Five years later, he won a seat in the province's legislature as a
rookie member for Whitby-Ajax. In 1997, he was tapped to join Mike
Harris's cabinet as minister of labour, and also went on to serve as
Flaherty took on Ontario's treasury file as finance minister in 2001
until 2002, when he launched an unsuccessful bid to succeed Harris as
leader of the Ontario PC Party, losing to Ernie Eves.
He entered federal politics when he was first elected to the House of
Commons in 2006.
In that first year, he announced the government would impose new taxes
on income trusts, breaking a Conservative campaign promise but defending
it as a measured response. The controversial move eliminated over $20
billion in stock market value overnight. He also dropped the GST to six
per cent from seven per cent in his first Conservative budget, and
eventually to five per cent in 2008.
Flaherty won wide recognition for steering Canada through the 2008
financial crisis and global recession and buoying Canada's economic
reputation. In conjunction with the Bank of Canada, he slashed interest
rates in a bid to spur businesses and households to borrow money and
He also introduced tax-free savings accounts in 2008 to allow people to
earn tax-free investment income, and tightened mortgage lending rules
several times to slow the apparent runaway growth of mortgage debt.
A man of his convictions
Until his resignation, which was announced after the markets closed on
March 18, he had been the only finance minister for the Harper
Conservatives since they took power in 2006.
Friends remembered Flaherty as a man of his convictions. He was deeply
principled until the end, suggesting in February he no longer supported
bringing in income splitting for couples with children — a policy that
other Conservative MPs were backing in line with a Conservative promise.
Canada's Economic Action Plan 2014
Conservative MP Tony Clement, who shared a
desk with Flaherty for eight years in the House of Commons, said his
seatmate could be gruff, but could always "turn on the charm" and had an
"Irish twinkle" in his eye.
Colleagues on Parliament Hill from all political stripes expressed shock
at the former minister's sudden death.
Next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Flaherty was the most familiar
face of the government, commanding respect from colleagues, even when
they didn't see eye to eye politically.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair described Flaherty as a friend and said the House
of Commons would feel a "profound loss" in his absence.
"We're very very, sad for the loss of a great Canadian, Jim Flaherty,
who was an extraordinarily dedicated public servant, and he'll be
greatly missed by all of us," Mulcair told reporters.
Former Liberal interim leader Bob Rae, who crossed swords with Flaherty
many times during question period in the Ontario Legislature and on
Parliament Hill, said although Flaherty was deeply partisan, he made
friends across the aisle.
Champion for disability issues
"I worked with his wife, Christine, in charitable work in Toronto and
got to know Jim very well. As things passed, we got to know each other
socially a bit," he said, adding that "Jim sent me the kindest note when
I left politics."
Although Flaherty's legacy may be measured by his effectiveness at
keeping the books balanced during one of history's most calamitous
economic periods, he was also passionate about improving quality of life
for disabled Canadians.
In 2007, Flaherty introduced the Registered Disability Savings Plan,
which is meant to help parents ensure disabled children have long-term
In a tweet, elite wheelchair athlete Jeff Adams called Flaherty a friend
and noted that he was a "strong supporter" of Variety Village, an
all-abilities sports and fitness facility.
At a routine speech about the disability assistance plan in 2011, the
finance minister was visibly moved, fighting back tears as he discussed
the plan and the challenges that parents of disabled children face.
Canadian Federal Government announcement of the RDSP
Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty announces a major shift in contributive
citizenship in Canada for people with disabilities to be able to plan
for the future. The Registered Disabilities Savings Plan not only allows
people with disabilities to accrue assets like other citizens, but it
allows family members and friends to contribute funds to help support
them. Also announced is the extension of the government grant until
One of Flaherty's sons, John, has a mental disability and shared an
interest in baseball with his father.
The former minister was also a father figure of sorts for younger
Conservative MPs. Kellie Leitch considered him to be a mentor, as did
James Rajotte, chair of the House standing committee on finance.
In a statement, Leitch credited Flaherty with getting her into politics,
describing him as her "champion."
"Canada has lost a giant and our our government has lost one of its most
respected and capable members," she said.
Click this link to get an overview of his
life from the CBC.
Peter Mansbridge shares his memories of former finance
minister Jim Flaherty who died today at 64.
Jim Flaherty: Life and Legacy
Jim Flaherty eulogized by PM
Harper at state funeral