It was another week of pointless yelling, political manoeuvring, finger pointing, rhetoric spewing in Canadian politics. Business as usual.
Then yesterday, the turmoil in Ottawa came to an abrupt halt. Jim Flaherty had passed away.
The quickly suspended House of Commons, like the rest of the nation, was taken by surprise. Mr. Flaherty had resigned from his position as Finance Minister less than a month ago. We knew he had serious health issues. We never thought it would – or could – end like this.
Canada has lost a great public servant. Every one of his colleagues can attest to that. He has already received praise from all ends of the spectrum; Thomas Mulcair, Paul Dewar, Justin Trudeau, Bob Rae, Elizabeth May, David Johnston, Rob Ford, and Olivia Chow to name a few. There was a clear pattern in what he was respected for.
Jim Flaherty was an authentic, diligent, and honourable man. An especially rare member of the political landscape.
The “Irish Lion” was born into a family of seven siblings. Mr. Flaherty attended Princeton University on a hockey scholarship, and went to pursue a postgraduate degree in law at York University. His entry into the political ring began in 1995, after a previously unsuccessful attempt to enter the Ontario legislature. He quickly rose through the positions of Minister of Labour, Attorney General, and finance minister. When elected to the House of Commons in 2006, Jim Flaherty served as the Minister of Finance for over 8 years, ending his stint only recently.
He has received much praise over his handling of the Canadian economy during the 2008 financial crisis, and is regarded as a fair, reasonable Member of Parliament by his colleagues. When news of his passing broke, the House of Commons was visibly distraught. Party lines faltered. Hardened parliamentarians felt the sharp sting of loss. Some were holding back tears, others were consoling their colleagues.
As surprising as it was to witness, it’s unfortunate that Parliament will show firm unity only when someone leaves us. Yet, there is no question that the outpour of support he received yesterday was well-deserved. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes of the passion and dedication exhibited in his work.
It doesn’t matter where on the partisan fence in which we sit. Jim Flaherty, with his charm, self-deprecating humour, and likeability will be truly missed.
He may have always made jokes about his height, but Canadians coast to coast feel we have lost a towering figure.