Former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, who passed away at the age of 64 on Thursday, was among Canada’s longest-serving finance minister — appointed to the key economic post when the Conservative government first came to power in 2006.
Before he stepped down, he announced he suffered from a rare skin condition that required him to take medication that led to weight gain and apparent fatigue in public appearances.
Flaherty leaves behind his widow Christine Elliott, also a lawyer and a politician. She ran and won provincially in Flaherty’s old riding when he resigned to seek a federal seat, leaving the couple representing essentially the same region in the legislature and the Commons. They have three triplet sons — John, Galen and Quinn.
Below is a biographical overview:
Dec. 30, 1949: James Michael (Jim) Flaherty is born in Lachine, Que. He grew up in an Irish-Catholic family in Montreal. When he was young, Flaherty was an hockey player.
Attended Bishop Whelan High School and Loyola High School in Montreal. He goes on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.
Founding partner of the firm Flaherty Dow Elliott before going into politics in 1990, when he ran and lost provincially in the riding of Durham Centre. He ran again in 1995, and won a seat in the legislature in the Whitby-Ajax riding. and then becomes a founding partner in the firm, Flaherty Dow Elliott.
1990: He unsuccessfully wades into provincial politics in Ontario, losing in the riding of Durham Centre.
1991: Triplet sons, Quinn, Galen and John, are born to Flaherty and his wife, Christine Elliott.
1995: Flaherty wins a seat in the Ontario legislature as the representative of Whitby-Ajax.
1997: He enters the Mike Harris cabinet as minister of labour, and would go on to serve as attorney general, finance minister, enterprise minister and deputy premier under Harris and his successor, Ernie Eves.
2002: Flaherty fights unsuccessfully to succeed Harris as Ontario Conservative leader, losing to Eves. In his leadership bid, he proposes a tax credit for parents to send their children to private schools and privatizing the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
2006: Flaherty wins the federal riding of 2006 Whitby-Oshawa and becomes the finance minister of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new Conservative minority government.
2006-2008: He institutes a series of tax cuts, including shaving two percentage points off the GST to fulfil a Conservative campaign promise, as well as a Registered Disability Savings Plan to help Canadians with disabilities and their families, and the Tax-Free Savings Account, which allows people to earn tax-free investment income.
January 2009: Flaherty’s first budget after the global economic crisis contains a $40 billion stimulus package, as Canada plunges into deficit, which he subsequently vowed to erase by 2015.
March 2012: Flaherty uses his budget to abolish the penny, which he said took 1.6 cents to produce.
January 2013: Flaherty says publicly he is taking steroid medication for a skin condition in order to address months of speculation about what appeared to be a new phase of declining health.
July 2013: Flaherty takes sick during a G20 conference in Russia, and misses two days of meetings.
Feb. 11, 2014: Flaherty tables his final budget in a bid to erase the country’s deficit by 2015. He comes close by presenting a budget that carried only a $2.9-billion deficit with a $3-billion contingency fund.
March 18, 2014: Flaherty abruptly resigns as finance minister. Flaherty declares that he is “on the road to a full recovery” and that his decision to leave politics was not related to his health.
April 10, 2014: Flaherty dies suddenly, and in the words of his family “peacefully,” at his Ottawa home.
Finance minister portfolio:
As finance minister, Flaherty embarked on a program that focused on tax cuts.
2006: Begins by cutting the GST by one percentage point to six per cent. He pared off another percentage point in 2008
Also announces changes to the tax rules governing income trusts which sparked anger and prompted special hearings by the Commons finance committee.
2007: Introduces the Registered Disability Savings Plan to help Canadians with disabilities and their families save for retirement. One of Flaherty’s three sons has a mental disability and the minister wept openly when he announced the plan.
2008: Announces the Tax-Free Savings Account, which allows people to earn tax-free investment income.
2013: In the budget, boasts that the average family of four was saving $3,220 in taxes compared with their bill in 2006.