The Death of Jim Flaherty

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“We are, of course, not in the world alone and our lives here are finite.”

“Our individual and family responsibilities are primary. Yet the desire to accumulate private goods in the end does not lead to satisfaction simply because, as we all learn, enough is never enough.”

Jim Flaherty, October 2011, Western

It is always sad when people die, including former federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

He will easily be remembered as an intelligent man who lived a life of public service, despite the fact that his economic policies were justifiably vilified by millions.

I have not been a fan of his economic policies. I especially don’t like that he announced a cut to federal healthcare spending increases which will lead to a $36 billion cut in healthcare funding to provinces over the next decade. Federal funding increases were designed to get the federal government up to covering 50% of the cost of our public healthcare system; that is now in jeopardy.

And I didn’t like most of the economic policies of his party, and their financial mismanagement that led to things like losing track of $3.1 billion.

But it was clear that as an intelligent man, at least at times he paid more attention to facts and research than lots of his party colleagues. Recently he publicly opposed Harper’s tax cut plan of income splitting for Canadian families. Facts indicate that the policy would help the 1% and some other rich folks and do nothing or virtually nothing for most of the population.

The biggest value of income splitting to the neoliberal Conservative Party of Canada is a justification for yet another tax cut and consequent service cuts, because they believe government is bad and needs to be reduced in size and scope.

Flaherty eventually opposed that income splitting policy, publicly, acknowledging that it would not be good for the country. When he stepped down from politics last month it looked as if that opposition ended his political career. And while he said he wasn’t leaving politics for health reasons, it looks like that might have been the case. Time will tell on that.

I also noticed the esteem that people all around Canada held for him as a person of integrity, in part because of his devotion to public service in talks like this. This is what kept him high in people’s estimation of who could take over the party if it or the country finally tired of the soft fascist rule of Stephen Harper. I heard of no one who felt any MP had a better shot at taking over for Harper than Flaherty.

Ultimately, though I didn’t support most of his economic policies, his death appears to be on par with Red Tory Joe Clark’s last day in parliament. While he was no iconic progressive leader, his departure leaves behind many far lesser people.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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3 thoughts on “The Death of Jim Flaherty”

  1. You are kind in your remarks. And honest.

    While we are shocked at his rather sudden death, and can understand the sadness that his family must feel, and for that we must offer our condolences, we must also be honest and put things into their proper perspective.

    First, the damage that Flaherty and Harper had done to public healthcare will live on. By cutting the amount of federal transfer to the provinces, and then tying it to the GDP in future years, both Flaherty and Harper had stacked the deck against the provinces that need the help the most in favor of a rapidly growing province like Alberta. Many people in the poorer provinces will suffer because of this apparent ideology driven policy.

    Second, Flaherty was apparently part and parcel of the Harper mismanagement and abuse where millions of our money were either wasted (e.g., the Economic Action Advertisements of non existent jobs) or used apparently to benefit the re-election fortunes of the Conservative Party, or channeled to their friends (e.g. Tony Clement’s gazebo in Muskoka). As you pointed out, we are still not sure where the $3.1B went.

    Third, I do believe that Flaherty had failed to meet every projection he had made during his tenure as Finance Minister since 2006. This seems to be a dubious achievement for someone the Conservative Party claims to be the best Finance Minister.

    I could go on but I will stop by saying that the only positive thing I can say was his last public admission that the income splitting policy to be introduced when the budget is balanced will only benefit well off voters and will not benefit at least 85% of less affluent voters. For that honesty, and for taking a public stand against Harper, Flaherty deserved to be praised.

    Finally, it seems that Harper had apparently deprived Flaherty the pleasure of balancing his last budget, perhaps the only balanced budget in Flaherty’s career both provincially or federally (his claim to a balanced budget in Ontario was contradicted by an independent audit done after the Provincial Conservative government, of which Flaherty was a part, was booted from office).

  2. Stephen,

    I posted the comment below on Garth Turner’s blog entry regarding Mr. Flaherty. I believe these comments apply to your post as well. Maybe not in the exact same way, but in some manner nonetheless.


    It must be hard not being able to fully tell the truth. Jim Flaherty was a public servant whose every action was based on what was good for Canada.

    Even the housing bubble serves an altruistic purpose that is good for the country, and you know it.

    It’s easier to say things that are not true about someone when they are alive, when they know that you are just playing your role. It is a lot harder to square the circle and continue with the same barbs when they pass, and are deeply missed.


    Another Man’s Done Gone

    1. i agree that flaherty did what he thought was good for canada. turner’s piece spoke of a softening of flaherty’s neoliberalism in recent years. which part of his economic career do you think was the good for canada part the early years or the “income splitting is bad” years?

      in no way do i think the housing bubble is good for canada. so, there’s that.

      if you think i said some untrue things about flaherty before or after he died [], i’d be interested to hear that.

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