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.
Recent political drama in Toronto has brought its numerous power struggles into the spotlight. Between the hovering possibility of Premier Kathleen Wynne dissolving the city's infrastructure and the ongoing conflicts between Rob Ford and his cabinet, the recurring question is: who really controls Toronto?
Stephen Harper has finally shuffled his cabinet but if his aim was to turn the page on a year full of scandals, it looks like he failed by simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. A better bet would have been to take the lemons he'd been handed and make himself a batch of cabinet lemonade with courageous appointments like these.
I am writing an open letter to urge you to show leadership and honour your commitment to meet and work with the provinces to provide Canadians with the opportunity to increase their retirement investments in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP). You have the opportunity to do the right thing and improve the pension savings of all working Canadians in this country.