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Fond memories, tributes pour in for Jim Flaherty

04/10/2014 07:04 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT
The news of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's death reverberated around the country Thursday, not just from colleagues in Ottawa, but from provincial leaders and the financial community.

On an intimate scale, few sights were more moving than Laureen Harper's tissue and crumpled face as she stood beside a pale Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as he, sighing heavily, addressed his caucus about Flaherty's death.

Few were as poignant as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May describing how Flaherty asked her how it felt to defeat a leprechaun when she won former Conservative MP Gary Lunn's seat in the last election.

Flaherty, a short man but slightly taller than Lunn, loved his Irish roots and sometimes referred to himself as a leprechaun

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale also used the leprechaun image for Flaherty. "I think all of us could tell for the last number of months that the little lleprechaun was missing," the former minister of finance told reporters.

He wasn't even 5'6", as his friend Jaime Watt of Navigator told host Evan Solomon on CBC News Network's Power and Politics, but he played hockey at Princeton.  Watt said Flaherty "wasn't raised by Jesuits for nothing" and "was always sneaking things into his budgets to help those less able than themselves"

The group Canadians with Disabilities used the word "champion" to describe Flaherty who had a son with a learning disability, and instituted a Registered Disability Savings Plan.

Flaherty wept unabashedly at a news conference when he announced the initiative. "He will be missed in our community.  He made a difference," said spokesperson Tony Dolan

Colleagues

Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, who was in tears in the foyer of the House of Commons today, wrote in a statement that Flaherty urged her to enter politics, and was "the most dedicated mentor that a person could ask for. He was my champion."

"I have many fond memories of Jim and will miss sharing Irish scotch with him in my office,” Conservative MP Deepak Obrai said in a statement.

In an email to CBC News Conservative MP Gary Goodyear wrote, "He worked 24 hours a day but always came to my birthday party. He was that kind of guy."

Few knew Flaherty better than his long-time spokesperson, Chisolm Pothier.. "He was a good guy," Pothier told host Evan Solomon of CBC News Network's Power and Politics. Pothier said he and Flaherty would travel the world on business trips but Flaherty would insist that after work they get in a cab and tour the sites.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was one of several MPs who described Flaherty as a mentor, but "from a very young age" at Queen's Park when both were provincial politicians before they entered federal politics. "I could always rely on Jim to be a devout friend through tough times," he wrote in a statement.

Treasury Board Secretary was one of many to describe Flaherty as a friend, but noted that for a time they were rivals when they both pursued the Ontario Progressive Party leadership. Then, in the Commons, they were seatmates for eight years. "His sound economic policies, and his Irish charm will be remembered," Clement said.

Opposition

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, his voice shaking, told reporters, " I had a chance to know him before being in federal politics and he's a strong, tough character, he's always been very devoted to Christine Elliott, his wife, and their three sons."

NDP finance critic Peggy Nash described Flaherty as "generous". She told reporters, "He always invited me to celebrate
Saint Patrick's day."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, in a statement,  described Flaherty as a Parliamentarian with "a strong social conscience and fundamentally committed to the ideal of public service."   He continued, "This is a loss to the entire family in the House of Commons."

Ontario

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak also used the word mentor. "I'm heartbroken. It's a huge blow to my heart," he said in an interview with CBC as described how Flaherty had visited him at his house in Niagara. "Jim stood there on our porch and talked about his love and his passion for Ontario and Canada, it sent chills down your spine."

Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, who made Flaherty a provincial finance minister, told CBC News Network that he'd talked to Flahety yesterday who told Harris he was feeling fine. "I'm a little angry as well as sad," Harris said. "He deserved the next 20 years."

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, in a televised statement, his voice cracking, said Flaherty was "a relentless fighter and champion of the people."

After Ford publicly confessed to using crack cocaine, Flaherty called him a friend, and, near tears, said he hoped he could help.  When fellow MP Jason Kenney was critical of Ford's drug use, Flaherty reportedly lashed out at him on the floor of the House of Commons beyond the reach of microphones.

"I can never thank him enough for his friendship and loyalty," Ford said.

Ontario Premier Kathleen, in a news conference, called Flaherty "a great Canadian" and a "determined servant of the people."  

Financial community

From the financial community, Craig Alexander, chief economist at the TD Bank Group told CBC's News Network Flaherty had the courage of his convictions. "He leaned against personal debt growth and toughened up mortgage rules in a way that did not make people happy but were absolutely the best thing for the country."

Former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, currently Governor of the Bank of England, worked closely with Flaherty for eight years. In a statement issued today, Carney called Flaherty "a man of principle who believed in fixing banks when they were broken."

In a statement, the Governor General David Johnston said, "Without a doubt, his passion for public service and his commitment to Canada were extraordinary."

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