Jim Flaherty Remembered as Canada's Jack Kemp

Image: Jim Flaherty Remembered as Canada's Jack Kemp

Monday, 05 May 2014 05:11 PM

By John Gizzi

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Two weeks after his death and the state funeral that celebrated his life, former Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is recalled as the father of his country's modern policy of growth and opportunity.

Many Canadians are still shaken by the death of Flaherty at age 64 following a rare illness that forced his resignation from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Cabinet in March. Three weeks later, on April 11, he died of a heart attack.

Much like the late New York Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who also served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Flaherty exerted a major influence on public policy without holding the top office in his country.

As Canada's longest-serving finance minister, Flaherty oversaw an agenda of lower taxes and smaller government that spurred growth and job creation to modern highs.

When he spoke to Newsmax at the IMF/World Bank meeting in Washington last October, Flaherty declined to share his conversations with U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew about the debt crisis other than to say it was "all very encouraging" and that the United States "was getting to a solution."

Flaherty was recalled at his funeral as someone who could spice his political conversations with quotes from Pope Leo XIII and Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper — all over hamburgers and beer.

Even opponents such as Canadian Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, who detested Flaherty's unabashedly right-of-center philosophy, nonetheless enjoyed his company after hours.

Recalling in his eulogy how Flaherty's political enemies liked the finance minister personally, Prime Minister Harper quipped: "I can't even get my friends to like me!"

Since Harper took office as Conservative prime minister in 2006 and Flaherty assumed the finance portfolio, the federal portion of Canada's corporate tax has dropped from 22.12 percent to 15 percent.

Other taxes were lowered under Harper and Flaherty, and the average Canadian family saves more than $3,200 a year as a result, according to figures from the Finance Ministry.

At the IMF/World Bank meeting, the Canadian finance chief spoke proudly of his country "creating more jobs in September" over the previous month and having a "balanced budget for 2015."

Because of "precisely what we're doing," Flaherty added, "Canada has a triple-A credit rating and is one of three [major economies] in the world to have this rating."

"We've had moderate growth and fiscal responsibility," Flaherty said. "They all affect each other."

One of eight children, Flaherty attended Catholic schools in Montreal on a hockey scholarship, graduated from Princeton and earned a law degree from Canada's York University. After years in private practice, he won a seat in the Ontario legislature on his second try in 1995. He was Ontario's attorney general and finance minister, and championed tuition tax credits for parents to send their children to private and denominational schools.

Flaherty wanted badly to succeed friend Mike Harris as prime minister of Ontario, but was beaten in a bid for the premiership in 2002 and lost a bid for the leadership of the provincial Conservative Party in 2004.

Undeterred, he proved Ronald Reagan's axiom that "there are second acts in politics" by winning a seat in the federal parliament a year later and joining the Cabinet. Christine Elliott, Flaherty's wife and mother of their triplet sons, won his former seat in the Ontario legislature and continues to hold it.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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