Flaherty's family wasn't hardscrabble poor, but he had to deliver newspapers for months to earn enough to buy himself a pair of good hockey skates to make the team. It was to prove an investment that allowed him to soar to the very top of the world's political roster, skate with the best and earn many goals and assists.
Here I must trespass on the impolite, and I'll begin by restoring to the record the excised bits in which Jim Flaherty was a soldier of Mike Harris's "Common Sense Revolution." The idea that he was a non-ideological moderate would have been laughed out of the room, even by the man himself. Moderate was an insult he applied to his leadership rival, that pink and pale McGuinty imitation Ernie Eves. As Ontario's Attorney General and Finance Minister, Flaherty was one of Harris's most consistent and reliable true believers, mocked (like Harris himself) for applying his tough-on-crime universal restorative elixir to homelessness and poverty.
Flaherty, who was only 64 when he died, was devoted to his family and one of the most popular Members of Parliament. And while his life achievements and humanity should be praised, it also needs to be said that during his time in the federal government his policies severely discriminated against the vast majority of Canadians. With apologies to Clint Eastwood, the Flaherty/Harper contributions to the economic life of the country can be broken into three main areas: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
When destiny called, Flaherty responded with calm determination, incredible single-mindedness, supreme confidence, toughness and above all, clear-eyed pragmatism. And in the process, he even surprised his most critical political foes with his smooth Gretzky-like stick handling of Canada's economy.
Others, and likely myself also, will debate Jim Flaherty's 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.
Although we got to know each other through politics, my own favourite memory of Jim is entirely personal. Whenever we ended up at the same event, same function -- as soon as we spied each other across the room, he'd smile a big grin, as would I. His eyes would twinkle. Thank you, Jim, for your friendship and your service.
This budget certainly does a lot of things. It ignores struggling families desperately in need of daycare options. In 2006, the Conservatives cancelled the Liberal National Daycare Program, opting instead for a $100/month subsidy. Canadian families know how to stretch a buck, but $100 does not stretch very far.
A few small tax perks were closed this budget time around. But the revenue resulting from tweaking non-resident trusts and a handful of other insider loopholes are estimated at only $50 to $80 million in 2015-16. It makes one wonder if Jim Flaherty is committed to the business of fair taxation.
Economic Action Plan 2014 is what Canada needs. It continues to support jobs and growth; supports families and communities; and highlights the road to a balanced budget in 2015 without cutting transfers to individuals or the provinces.
The ecological and physical consequences of blowing our carbon budget, from disappearing coastlines to a melting arctic, are stark but often hard for someone like Minister Flaherty to understand. This ignorance, willful or accidental, is dangerous because it is also obscuring major economic consequences.
Mr. Flaherty may indeed eliminate the deficit in 2015-16 as planned. We hope he does. But his plan as conceived still contains considerable risk that shouldn't be ignored. More conservative revenue forecasts and lower program spending would reduce these risks and help to ensure he can deliver on his promise.
Despite all the craziness, our Mayor, the happy warrior kept repeating the simple message of "Subways, subways, subways." Lo and behold, Prime Minister Harper just announced this week that he is coming up with $660-million to complete the financing of the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line from Kennedy Station, underground along to the Scarborough Town Centre.
My first order of business would be to banish the heinous credit default swaps, which, believe it or not, are bets on whether a country or company will go broke. I can hear the conversation at home in the evening: 'Hello dear, what did you do at the office today?' 'Aw, just the usual. I placed a $3 billion bet that Spain will go bankrupt by the end of the year.'
Under Stephen Harper, household debt has exploded. The average household debt-to-income ratio (the amount of debt the average Canadian household owes for every dollar of their annual disposable income) has risen from $1.31 to $1.64 -- which is where the United States was before the housing market crashed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty went to Russia for the G20 conference this week, and decided that this would be a good time to pressure the world into cutting government spending and implementing austerity measures. Unfortunately, to the leaders at the G20 -- stuck as they are between deficits and sinking economies, between the option of printing money and doing nothing -- Harper and Flaherty are just as likely to come off as a bunch of self-righteous jerks.
Our Finance Minister's concerns regarding Canadians' personal debt loads have been well-illustrated through his policy initiates and warnings over the past year. The common sense money advice he is reported to have given his own children, however, may be far more telling in terms of revealing how the Minister views debt.