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Harper and Jim Flaherty’s family pay tribute at state funeral

by Jane Taber and Chris Hannay

The state funeral for former finance minister Jim Flaherty was held Wednesday at St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Mr. Flaherty died Thursday, apparently of a heart attack, after resigning from cabinet just a few weeks earlier. Here are some highlights of the service.

Harper delivers first eulogy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen wait for the start of the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen wait for the start of the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Choking back tears, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an emotional and powerful tribute to his friend and partner, Jim Flaherty, calling his decision to name him finance minister “one of the best decisions of my political career.”

Mr. Harper wrote the tribute himself, recalling meeting Mr. Flaherty in 2005 at his office when they talked about his wish to run for federal office. “He was sheepish,” remembered Mr. Harper, “he had not supported my leadership campaign.”

He also said that Mr. Flaherty was initially reticent about taking on the finance portfolio.

And then he talked about their last meeting in his office, just a few weeks ago, when Mr. Flaherty said that he was retiring from office. “I told him that … he had done a great job and I understood the sacrifices it entailed. I wished him well. I told him not to be a stranger.”

The Prime Minister also detailed Mr. Flaherty’s legacy, which he says was putting Canada on a stable track through the 2008 -2009 recession. Even as he pushed the stimulus money out the door, Mr. Harper said, he made significant changes, including not using the crisis to build bureaucracies or to create new programs.

He joked about Mr. Flaherty – saying that he once described as the best finance minister “per inch” in the world. Mr. Flaherty was only 5’ 3” tall and would make fun of his height. “He delivered many jokes about his own shortness but short as he was upon the world stage he often strode like a giant,” said Mr. Harper.

Addressing, Mr. Flaherty’s wife, MPP Christine Elliott and their triplet sons, he acknowledged that as traumatic an event as this has been for Mr. Flaherty’s friends, it is worse for his family.

“We have lost a partner in politics but you have lost a partner in life,” he said.

Read Mr. Harper’s full speech.

Sister Norah delivers second eulogy

Wife and sons give tributes

Christine Elliott touches the casket of her late husband at the state funeral for the Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Christine Elliott touches the casket of her late husband at the state funeral for the Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Christine Elliott characterized her husband as a perfectionist, smart and intense. She says that her husband would do anything for his triplet boys, now 23 years old, singling out John, who has a mental disability. She said “inclusion in every respect was his ultimate goal.”  

John and his father had a special relationship, spending a lot of time together at sports events, especially baseball games.  John is a Toronto Blue Jays fan. John considered his Dad his “ticket purveyor,” she joked. John’s brothers, Galen and Quinn, also both spoke emotionally about their father. John did not speak but stood behind his mother during her remarks.

Leitch gives Reading

Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, who had reportedly performed CPR on Mr. Flaherty on the day he died, gave the Reading. She is a long-time friend of Mr. Flaherty and his wife. Dr. Leitch, who is also a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, called the former finance minister her “champion.” She told The Globe and Mail that he called her every second day for months to try to persuade her to run for federal office. He finally wore her down. She ran in the Ontario riding of Simcoe–Grey in the 2011 federal election.

Mourners arrived

The casket of Canada’s former finance minister Jim Flaherty arrives at St. James Cathedral for his state funeral in Toronto (Canadian Press)

Before the funeral, former cabinet minister Jay Hill told The Globe’s Jane Taber about his recent visits with Mr. Flaherty.

On all levels it just seemed to me [Flaherty] had given it all and he had given too much. … He was just exhausted in all ways.

Who’s there?

Most of Mr. Flaherty’s caucus colleagues are in attendance. Four Liberal MPs, including leader Justin Trudeau and Scott Brison, long time finance critic, are also attending.

Notably in the church is Jim Prentice, former minister of industry and aboriginal affairs, who left government, and was appointed senior executive vice-president and vice-chairman of CIBC in January 2011. His presence reminds people of choices that politicians make about leaving their posts — and careers after public service. Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Flaherty was preparing for a career in the private sector, where he could make his mark and some money after politics. Sadly, his retirement lasted only a few weeks.

Canada’s Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Official Opposition leader Thomas Muclair arrive for the state funeral of Canada’s former finance minister Jim Flaherty in Toronto. (Canadian Press)

The church has a capacity of about 800, with an additional 1,000 people in tents outside.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who worked closely with Mr. Flaherty over eight years in government, will deliver a eulogy he penned himself, as reported by The Globe’s Steven Chase.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver waits inside the church at the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Finance Minister Joe Oliver waits inside the church at the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Many notables in politics, both federally and provincially, have been invited, including:

  • Governor-General David Johnston.
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and John Turner.
  • Many federal cabinet ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, Trade Minister Ed Fast, Employment Minister Jason Kenney, Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, new Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.
  • NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
  • Former Bank of Canada governor (currently with the Bank of England) Mark Carney.
  • Michael Horgan, deputy minister of finance under Mr. Flaherty.
  • Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and former premiers Mike Harris and David Peterson.
  • Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo.
  • All Conservative MPs and all MPPs from Ontario’s legislature were invited.
  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, his brother, councillor Doug Ford, and their mother Diane Ford.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his wife Renata arrive at the church for the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his wife Renata arrive at the church for the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The end of the service

What is a state funeral?

A state funeral is a public ceremony organized by the government of Canada, in co-ordination with the family of the deceased. Traditionally, the honour is bestowed on prime ministers, governors-general and cabinet ministers who die in office. The prime minister may offer state funerals for other public figures who did not fit that criteria, such as Mr. Flaherty or the NDP’s then-leader Jack Layton when he died in 2011. (See a list of Canada’s state funerals.) Watch this video for more on state funerals.

— Chris Hannay, digital politics editor (@channay on Twitter), and Jane Taber (@JaneTaber1 on Twitter)

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