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Jim Flaherty, a personal remembrance

I worked closely with Jim Flaherty in the early days of the Harper government.  We didn’t have a lot of people around with experience in governing.  Of course, Jim had been Finance Minister in Ontario, and he understood how tough the issues were.  He was the natural choice to manage finance in those early years.  He was a steady influence in a new government.

After I left Ottawa, I joined an international financial institution in Washington, DC, and got to see Flaherty’s contribution from a different perspective.  In the midst of the most serious global financial crisis since the 1930s, he commanded universal respect in DC and in financial capitals around the world.  He had the absolute confidence of Prime Minister Harper, several US Treasury Secretaries and his colleagues in the G20.  Looking back, I would argue no one did a better job of navigating the crisis than he did.

He made so many decisions as Finance Minister.  Perhaps his most important and far-sighted was the decision to start lowering the Canadian corporate tax rate.  He understood, long before the financial crisis hit, that getting Canada’s corporate tax rate down would attract investment and secure jobs.  We also should not lose sight of how much he did to support families with disabled children.  A new savings plan, new tax rules, new investments in research and family services.  He did everything he could to make that life-long challenge easier

Finance Minister is a tough job.  A measure of Flaherty’s skill is that he made it look easier.  He was on universally good terms with everyone in Parliament, government and opposition members alike.  He gave everyone and every cause a fair hearing.  Over the past few years, he carried on in obvious ill health to show the stability and predictability of economic policy, here and around the world.  Losing him so soon after he embarked on his well-earned retirement is terrible.