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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Devastating news. Jim Flaherty was a good person and a good friend. Condolences to family and friends.-- John Duncan (@JohnDuncanMP) April 10, 2014
Our hearts are breaking at the loss of a great colleague and friend. We will miss you Jim. My prayers are with Christine and the children.-- Candice Bergen (@CandiceBergenMP) April 10, 2014
So saddened at news of Jim Flaherty's passing. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. A genuinely likeable, widely respected man.-- Craig Scott (@CraigScottNDP) April 10, 2014
Much sadness. Thoughts are with family of Jim Flaherty. He gave so much to public service in Canada-- Libby Davies (@LibbyDavies) April 10, 2014
I'm saddened & shocked, words cannot describe the great loss to our country and community.-- Colin Carrie (@ColinCarrie) April 10, 2014
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Jim Flaherty. Thank you for sharing Jim with us, and allowing him to serve Canada so well.-- Mark Strahl, MP (@markstrahl) April 10, 2014
Jim Flaherty's passing a tragic loss for his family and Canada: a fine person, a great political leader, he will be missed #cdnpoli-- Peter Kent, MP (@KentThornhillMP) April 10, 2014
Very saddened to learn the news regarding the passing of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. His committment to Canada was unquestioned-- Glenn Thibeault (@GlennThibeault) April 10, 2014
My heart goes out to the family of Jim Flaherty, & all my Conservative colleagues. Know there is love & support around you.-- Megan Leslie, MP (@MeganLeslieMP) April 10, 2014
Very sad on passing of Jim Flaherty. We didn't always agree but got on well - he once called me "endangered species" as only Lib MP in 905!-- John McCallum (@JohnMcCallumMP) April 10, 2014
Sincere condolences to Jim Flaherty's family. The world of Canadian politics has lost a brilliant man.-- Hon. Stéphane Dion (@HonStephaneDion) April 10, 2014