Canadians bid farewell to Jim Flaherty, former finance minister

Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:24pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's political elite and hundreds of well-wishers paid final respects to former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at a state funeral on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper depicting Flaherty as a man who put his own needs aside in the service of his country.

Flaherty's death of a heart attack last week shocked Canadians, coming less than a month after the 64-year-old stepped down after eight years running the country's finances.

Well-wishers packed St. James Cathedral in downtown Toronto, wearing green scarves in tribute to Flaherty's Irish heritage, which he often referenced. He typically wore a green tie for big announcements.

"He was a man who was highly principled and ruthlessly pragmatic, combative but engaging, smart, very smart, and educated, while never assuming that he knew it all," Harper, wearing a green tie, told the crowd.

Flags at government buildings in Ottawa and at the Toronto headquarters of the country's banks flew at half-staff in tribute to a man credited with shepherding Canada's economy and banking system through the financial crisis of the last decade.

In a humor-filled eulogy, Harper noted Flaherty's own self-deprecating sense of humor, which often focused on the finance minister's diminutive stature.

"But short as he was, upon the world stage, he often strode like a giant," Harper said.

The third longest serving finance minister in Canadian history, Flaherty assumed the job when Harper's Conservative Party took power in February 2006.   Continued...

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie