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Let's Celebrate Flaherty's Life, Not Debate His Policies

04/11/2014 12:38 EDT | Updated 06/11/2014 05:59 EDT

It was on my way to Toronto Thursday that I heard the news. I was getting on to a flight to Bay Street of all places when I heard that Jim Flaherty, one of Canada's longest serving and most respected finance ministers, had died.

I looked around the terminal to see how people were reacting. The story was scrolling across the airport televisions and I wondered how people were so easily getting on with their days. It is the nature of a sudden passing that we may look to find some comfort in a reaction in others. Some change of the normal to recognize that things had shifted in some fundamental way.

I claim no great insight or personal intimacy with Jim Flaherty. We occasionally had some bonding moments over our Irish backgrounds and love of politics. At the most recent Conservative convention in Calgary we had raised a glass or two at his reception while watching the very best of Celtic dancing Alberta had to offer.

He was political to his quick but never hostile to his opponents and at times seemed to welcome a friendly heckle or two in the midst of an answer he was giving in question period when sparring with the very talented Peggy Nash, his opposition finance critic. He seemed to enjoy the distraction and want to engage in something more than what had been prepared for him that day.

It is a mark of a person that in their passing, friends and foes alike rush to add their thoughts and impressions. In watching and reading the outpouring of what must be seen as love and deep respect, from the Prime Minister to Tom Mulcair, from the press and steely-eyed bank executives, we can see that Jim Flaherty had a unique place in the country's business.

Others, and likely myself also, will debate his legacy and policies in the days to come, but for now we can recognize the man who tried to be more than only a politician and was able to keep some sense of dignity in a long and distinguished career in public life.

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