Stephen Harper writes, delivers moving eulogy to his ‘friend’ Jim Flaherty

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Colleagues, friends and family of Jim Flaherty gathered in Toronto on Wednesday to bid a final farewell to the former finance minister who died of an apparent heart attack last Thursday.

The state funeral — held at the hallowed St. James Cathedral — included tributes from Flaherty's widow, Christine Elliot, Flaherty's sons, his sister Norah Flaherty, and federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch.

One of the most moving speeches, however came from the Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a eulogy he chose to write himself.

Much has been written about the exceptional professional relationship of Harper and Flaherty: Flaherty was Harper's right hand man in cabinet for eight years. Together they formed the duo that steered the country through the global economic crisis — the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Harper spoke a little about that and, at times, got political praising "Jim" for instituting one of the the world's larger stimulus packages, engineering the money out the door while at the same time keeping an eye on the future to ensure short-term deficit spending wouldn't result in severe, long-term fiscal problems.

[ Related: Four great things Jim Flaherty did for Canada ]

But, for the better part of the tribute, Harper struck a more personal tone.

"The relationship between a Prime Minister and his Finance Minister is always a special one," he said at one point.

"But this, I can tell you, was more special than most."

Harper even inserted some humour joking about how Flaherty was liked by his enemies — a trait the prime minister said he envied.

Later in his speech he choked back tears recounting the day — a few weeks ago —when Flaherty told him he was resigning as finance minister.

"I told Jim that the meeting back in 2005 had been one of the best decisions of my political career, one of the most important for this government, and one of the most meaningful ever for our country.

That he had done a great job, accomplished what he set out to do, and that I understood and appreciated the sacrifice that it had entailed.

And I told Jim that he had truly been over these eight years, in my judgement, the best Finance Minister in the world, if not indeed, the best in our history.

I also wished him well in his next career and told him not to be a stranger."

The prime minister also had a moving message for Flaherty's triplet sons.

So, one more word for those, specifically for John and Galen and Quinn, “the boys,” as your father always called you.

Let me just say this.

I lost my own father almost exactly to the day, 11 years ago.

From that period, I remember almost nothing of what I said or what was said to me, so powerful were the waves of emotion.

But once that passed, and perspective took hold, I came to appreciate my father’s place in my life, probably even more fully and deeply than if he were still here.

And it is all good.

And it will be for you.

You are not “the boys” any longer.

You are young men.

Hold on to your mother and to your father’s lessons, and know that there are many here and beyond who are there for you.

A written version of Harper's full eulogy can be seen here.

[ Related: Plans for Jim Flaherty’s rare state funeral excite mixed reviews ]

Approximately 800 people attended the funeral, with hundreds of onlookers huddled in an overflow area.

Attendees included opposition leaders Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and John Turner, former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, much of the Conservative party caucus and several members of the Ontario legislature.

(Photo courtesy of the Reuters)

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