Jim’s untimely death five years ago today shocked many in Canada. For those of us who worked with and for him as a politician, we knew a person of unparalleled intelligence and ethics. We also knew him as a person of extraordinary grace!
For those of us who knew him well from Whitby, we were all so very anxious to see how well he performed while in politics and most especially for what he would do in life after politics. That’s why it’s so hard to comprehend a life so large cut so short.
I recall when I was a hospital administrator in Whitby and going through a particularly difficult time in 1997 because of a government mandated restructuring. The town was in a foul mood over the prospect of potentially losing its acute care services at the hospital. Jim came to my office and sat in the one chair I had for visitors and folded his arms, “Kealey”, he said, “hold fast! What you’re going through is the scourge of leadership. If you can’t handle this, you should get out! But I think you can handle this!” That advice has stuck with me throughout my career and I heed it often. Life can be difficult at times, but when the world has the benefit of advice like that from Jim Flaherty it makes things that are tough seem possible – and it’s simply a better place!
I had the opportunity in 2011 to host Jim for a fundraiser at my home in Mississauga. It was an interesting start to the evening because some trouble-making people in Mississauga had alerted media that the Minister of Finance was coming to my home and they assembled at the end of my driveway. When his car drove up, he stepped out, greeted them warmly and invited them into my home. As if knowing that they were intruding, they politely declined. Vintage Jim Flaherty – he was simply a better man!