Finance Minister Jim Flaherty resigns from politics, heading to private sector

The Canadian Press
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Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty

OTTAWA — Jim Flaherty is leaving the federal cabinet after more than eight years as finance minister to prepare for a return to the private sector, saying the move is unrelated to his recent health problems.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to name his replacement Wednesday.

Flaherty, who delivered his final budget last month, said he made the decision with his family earlier this year.



“As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” he said in a statement.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office said Flaherty would be retaining — at least for now — his seat in the House of Commons, meaning he remains an MP for the time being.

Flaherty is among Canada’s longest-serving finance ministers, appointed to the key economic post when the Conservative government first came to power in 2006.

He managed the country’s economy through one of its worst economic crises in 2008-2009, running up large deficits but leaving the books virtually balanced after his Feb. 11 budget.

Speculation about Flaherty’s future has risen in recent years after he acknowledged suffering from a rare skin condition, requiring him to take medication that led to weight gain and apparent fatigue in public appearances.

His long farewell message to Canadians, delivered unexpectedly on a government website, listed accomplishments such as cooling the housing market and introducing tax-free savings accounts.

But he also made special mention of his policies to help Canadians with disabilities. “Our government has worked hard to ensure our country benefits from the talents and abilities of Canadians with disabilities,” he said.

Harper, who has staked his government’s reputation on steady economic management, said he regretted the loss of his No. 1 money man.

“It is with great reluctance that today I accepted the resignation from cabinet of Jim Flaherty, minister of finance, so that he can eventually return to the private sector,” the prime minister said in a statement.

“In a political career of almost 20 years, minister Flaherty has exemplified the best qualities of those who enter public life: a true commitment to service, and a sincere desire to leave the country in better shape than it was when he entered politics.”

Flaherty was born in Lachine, Que., on Dec. 30, 1949. He went to Bishop Whelan High School and Loyola High School in Montreal and earned a BA at Princeton University and a law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

In his law career, he was a 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.

“As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” Jim Flaherty

He ran again in 1995, and won a seat in the legislature.

The new member for Whitby-Ajax entered Mike Harris’s cabinet in 1997 as minister of labour. He also served as minister of finance, attorney general, finance minister, enterprise minister and deputy premier under Harris and his successor, Ernie Eves.

In 2006, after two unsuccessful bids to lead the Ontario Conservatives, Flaherty jumped to federal politics, winning the riding of Whitby-Oshawa in the election that gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives their first minority government.

Harper gave him the Finance portfolio.

Flaherty quickly embarked on a program that focused on tax cuts. He began in 2006 by cutting the GST by one percentage point to six per cent. He pared off another percentage point in 2008.

In 2006, he also announced changes to the tax rules governing income trusts which sparked anger and prompted special hearings by the Commons finance committee.

Flaherty kept coming up with ways for people to reduce their taxes.

In 2007, he introduced 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.

In 2008, he announced the Tax-Free Savings Account, which allows people to earn tax-free investment income.

He repeatedly brought in targeted tax cuts to help everyone from truckers to people buying sports equipment. He raised the basic deduction to get more low income people off the tax rolls entirely, cut a point from the lowest personal tax rate and raised the upper limits of the two lowest tax brackets.

In his 2013 budget, he boasted that the average family of four was saving $3,220 in taxes compared with their bill in 2006.

While he was a strong fiscal conservative, Flaherty wasn’t afraid to plunge into deficit with spending programs to stave off the effects of the 2009 recessions.

The balanced budgets of the Liberal years plunged deep into the red as Flaherty pumped in money to support infrastructure projects and keep the economy from stalling completely.

He pledged, however, to get the books in balance in time for the federal election expected in 2015, and came close this year in last month’s budget, which carried only a $2.9-billion deficit with a $3-billion contingency fund.

Flaherty is married to 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.



Geographic location: Ontario, OTTAWA

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Recent comments

  • papa
    March 19, 2014 - 08:08

    People, people, gentle, gentle. - Can you not read, or can you not understand what you read. Is your brain so clouded by venom that you cannot comprehend? This man has consistently raised the tax threshold, leaving more and more people free of paying taxes all together. Regardless of your political affiliations, at least be fair.

  • oscar
    March 19, 2014 - 07:58

    As a visitor to your province, I read your newspaper report this morning. I am amazed at the comments written here. Many participants do not appear to be able to write, and their comments would point to inability to read as well. If those accomplishments are not impressive, no matter what party one favours, then I don't know what is. I would hate to think of what Canada would look like to day if those initiatives had not been carried out. I did not vote for this government, but I am able to give credit where credit is due. He is a good man, and served us well in a thankless job. All the best to you in the future, Mr. Flaherty, from a grateful Canadian. I

  • Karen
    March 18, 2014 - 21:17

    You folks really believe that Wes would have done a much better job. Regardless of his political stripe, this man has sent a lot of money to pei.

    • Mike C
      March 19, 2014 - 08:33

      I don't believe anyone has said Wes is doing a good job. Matter a fact I believe he is doing more harm then good to PEI. Having said that, Jim and Harper have proven to be a disaster for Atlantic Canada as well. We have to keep in mind that this Conservative Party is not the former Progressive Conservative. Not by a long shot.

  • stratford
    March 18, 2014 - 20:48

    One does not need to use three and triplet at the same time.Triplet means three. They have triplet sons.

  • memyself&i
    March 18, 2014 - 20:33

    Ba-bye now!!.....Don't let the door hit your ass on your way out!!!!......Good Riddance!!

  • Scott
    March 18, 2014 - 19:52

    And the rats start to of the worst finance ministers the country has ever seen. Disgraceful record. Shameful.

  • Garth Staples
    March 18, 2014 - 19:12

    A truly great Canadian. I shall miss him as Finance Minister and his Irish humour when in difficult situations.

  • Joe Schmoe
    March 18, 2014 - 18:34

    The rats are starting to abandon the sinking ship...good riddens Jimmy old boy! The National Post reports today that since Harper took office in 2006, the cost for his security has doubled to almost $20 million dollars per year. Shameful abuse of taxpayer dollars and almost as bad as the millions that disappeared in PEI with the Provincial Nominee Program.

  • Billy
    March 18, 2014 - 18:19

    To amazed. I am amazed to that you are so out of touch with the real world and would print it.

    March 18, 2014 - 18:11

    One can only hope that Dictator Steve will Quit as well. This Reform Party is The Worst Govt. Canada has ever had.

    March 18, 2014 - 17:22

    I wish he never entered politics .These clowns blew a Liberal surplus war chest and never saw another surplus dollar again .Canada Inaction Ad submit here.