Jim Flaherty Tributes Flow In Commons For Former Finance Minister

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OTTAWA - MPs sported green ties in a sartorial nod to Jim Flaherty's favoured choice of neckwear as tributes flowed in the House of Commons on Friday for the former finance minister.

Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, a medical doctor who was close to Flaherty, recalled how he persuaded her to run for public office with a prolonged barrage of phone calls.

"He was persistent," she said. "It was not something I was wont to do. In fact, he called probably every day, if not every second day, for five months.

"And if you know his fierce determination as I do, I think many people in this place do, you finally just say 'Yes,' because it's easier than taking the calls."

After stepping down as finance minister a month ago, Flaherty was going to give up his front-bench spot in the Commons to move to a seat directly behind Leitch.

"Time and time again over the last three weeks he had teased me relentlessly — in fact, vowed to make rabbit ears behind my head while I was speaking," Leitch said.

"But, unfortunately, he never made it here."

Flaherty died suddenly Thursday of an apparent heart attack. He was 64.

He had been battling a rare and painful skin disorder for more than a year but insisted after delivering his Feb. 11 budget that he was on the mend.

New Democrat MP Peter Julian, his party's former finance critic, recalled standing across the aisle from Flaherty in the Commons.

"He was always affable," Julian said. "He was always friendly. ... Whenever you met him — the one exception being question period ... where he was affable often, but very strong and eloquent as a debater.

"And as one of the many finance critics that he faced over the course of his career here, I can say that all of us had to be very well prepared when we came up against Jim Flaherty in the House of Commons."

Liberal MP Scott Brison spoke of Flaherty's competitive streak.

"Jim was even competitive when he congratulated me on the news of the impending birth of our twins," Brison said.

"He winked at me and reminded me, 'You know, we have triplets'."

Green party Leader Elizabeth May said Flaherty's sense of humour and compassion will stay with her.

Flaherty's desk in the Commons carried flowers and a card saying: "You are and will always be missed and remembered."

The Commons adjourned for its Easter break immediately after the tributes, forgoing question period and other business.

The Dominion Carillonneur was set to play several Irish songs on the Peace Tower bells in honour of Flaherty, who relished Irish heritage.

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