The unexpected, shocking death of Jim Flaherty, the Conservative Party of Canada’s only finance minister until his retirement less than a month ago, has resulted in hundreds of tributes for his commitment to public life and praise from those in business and conservative circles who approved of his financial and economic policies.
Flaherty, who was only 64, was devoted to his family and one of the most popular Members of Parliament. And while his life achievements and humanity should be praised, it also needs to be said that during his time in the federal government his policies severely discriminated against the vast majority of Canadians.
Flaherty had control of Canada’s purse strings during a period that led to a situation where, by 2012, the 86 wealthiest residents held the same amount of wealth as the bottom 11.4 million Canadians combined. Lagging wages have led many Canadians to take on record-high debt as they try to keep up with increasing costs.
In fairness, it’s impossible to assess Flaherty’s legacy as finance minister without factoring in that Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept him on a short leash. Harper, a rabid neoliberal, no doubt put forward a number of the Conservatives’ most anti-social policies. The two argued, but it’s safe to say that Flaherty lost more battles than he won.
With apologies to Clint Eastwood, the Flaherty/Harper contributions to the economic life of the country can be broken into three main areas: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.