Political Ottawa Stops To Mourn The Death of Jim Flaherty



Jim Flaherty changed many things – including our money.  Here is he is introducing new polymer banknotes in 2012.

The unexpected passing of the former finance minister united a place known more for partisan division and bickering.

There’s no shortage of columns how MP’s from all political stripes came together to mourn a death in the family (this one is by far the best I’ve read).  The flag above the Peace Tower was lowered.


So with that, I’ll share some of my own thoughts here:

I’ve covered every single budget Jim Flaherty delivered as Federal Finance Minister, including his first one in 2006.  Throughout the years we got to know each other  – we weren’t best pals, but we shared a Queens Park connection and had coffee a few times.  Flaherty was a charming, friendly and genuine man.  He was proud of his Irish roots.  He joked about his links to the “Ferocious O’Flaherty’s” known as notorious pirates who terrorized communities in the 1300’s.

He loved talking politics. He loved dissecting political strategy.  And make no mistake, he could be hyper partisan.  But he was also a pragmatist.

When he pumped billions of taxpayers money into a stimulus program, and drove up the deficit during the great recession of 2008, he admitted it was against his conservative instincts, but he did it because he believed it was the best option to avoid economic calamity.

He also championed programs for those with disabilities.  And it was personal.  One of his sons has a disability.  So every budget had something set aside to help.

But when Flaherty’s health took a dramatic turn last year (I wrote about it back then), the countdown began when he would leave his stressful and demanding portfolio.  And in the months leading up to his resignation from Cabinet, it was clear his passion for the job was fading.  Still, every time I saw him – despite his obvious deteriorating physical condition – he maintained a pleasant and friendly demeanour. Always happy to stop and chat.

All these thoughts raced through my mind as I stood outside his Ottawa condominium tower on this windy afternoon, knowing he had died in his 7th floor apartment earlier that day.

So I began thinking of my fondest memory of Jim Flaherty.  It was at a cocktail party after Budget 2012, the year Flaherty announced he would eliminate the penny to save taxpayers money.  His department gave him a pair of cufflinks with pennies on them to wear when he delivered the budget.  And he did.

That evening, Flaherty gave them to me. For no special reason.  As a rule of principle, I refused them because I don’t accept gifts from politicians … but he insisted.  So I told him I would return the cufflinks when he retired from politics.

Sadly, I never had the chance.



A Campaign Relic Shows How (Little) Politics Has Changed Since 1963

Election Colouring Book

Here’s a fun blog I wrote for the CTV Website. I thought I’d share it here, too.

My esteemed CTV colleague Roger Smith has acquired many unusual campaign souvenirs, but this one is particularly hilarious.

It’s an old colouring book issued by the Pearson Liberals during the historic 1963 election … and 50 years later, you’ll notice the political attack lines haven’t changed much.

History buffs will recall Pearson ran on a platform called “60 Days of Decision.” Perhaps this colouring book was merely a bonus:

RM Blog - 1963 cover

The election was triggered when the minority Conservative government, led by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, lost in non-confidence votes.

With an economic downturn looming, among other things, the Liberals tried to exploit the Conservatives’ fiscal record:

RM Blog - Carpet

“This is a beautiful Conservative rug. It is a wonderful place to hide things, especially facts. If neccessary, it will even cover up a financial crisis. Colour the rug lumpy.”


At the time, there was an emerging threat on the political left. A new, upstart coalition called the NDP was formed two years earlier by Tommy Douglas.

The Liberals were quick to define them (even though Pearson later depended on the NDP to pass legislation under his minority government).

RM Blog - NDP

“This is an NDP party. They are discussing their platform. They are against just about everything. Sometimes they are even against themselves. Colour them black and blue.”


The military became a hot issue after the Diefenbaker government cancelled the Avro Arrow.

It raised questions about military resources, among others:

RM Blog - Fighter Pilot

“This is a Canadian fighter pilot. He flies for NATO. All the other NATO pilots have planes that fight good. The Canadian pilot doesn’t. Colour him highly embarrassed.”


Improving First Nations conditions, and a vision for Canada’s North, were issues the Liberals vowed to address.

Of course, things were less politically correct back then:

RM Blog - Eskimo

“This is an Eskimo. He is looking at a Northern Vision. Other people sometimes see visions in the North. If you see a vision, colour it transparent.”


On the back page of the colouring book, we see the old campaign slogan …

RM Blog - Back Cover

The outcome of that election: Liberals narrowly defeated the Conservatives with a minority government, and Lester Pearson became Canada’s 14th Prime Minister.

He won a second minority in 1965 and retired from politics in 1967. Party faithful then elected Pierre Trudeau to replace him.

And the rest, as they say … is history. Colouring books and all.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/colouring-canadian-history-how-the-liberals-campaigned-1963-style-1.1167546#ixzz2Lmv7sHSl