Stephen Harper will deliver a very personal eulogy for Jim Flaherty that he wrote himself as he bids goodbye to the man who steered his government’s finances through rough waters.
The Prime Minister will be one of several speakers at the state funeral Wednesday for Mr. Flaherty, who died suddenly last week of apparent heart failure at 64. The service is at Toronto’s St. James Cathedral, an Anglican church, which has a capacity of about 800 but will be supplemented by tents outside that have a capacity of about 1,000 more.
A senior government source said Mr. Harper chose to pen the address himself.
The prime minister-finance minister relationship is one of the most important partnerships in federal politics, and Mr. Harper and Mr. Flaherty, while markedly different in personality, managed to make it work for more than eight years.
The invitation list for Mr. Flaherty’s funeral is long, sources say. The entire federal Conservative caucus, and their spouses, have been invited, as has every MPP in the Ontario legislature.
In addition to Mr. Harper and Governor-General David Johnston, all living former prime ministers, and living former governor-generals have been invited, as have all current provincial premiers and provincial finance ministers.
Former Bank of Canada governors David Dodge and Mark Carney have been invited. Mr. Carney attended Mr. Flaherty’s visitation Tuesday.
Former U.S. treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner were invited as was Mexican central bank governor Agustín Guillermo Carstens.
Also invited are current and former staffers of Mr. Flaherty and those in his network of supporters and friends acquired over a two-decade political career. As one put it, the funeral will be the one time “the entire Flaherty universe has come together all at once.”
Mr. Flaherty died just weeks after resigning as finance minister and just as he was preparing for a post-politics career.
Canadians began paying their respects to Mr. Flaherty on Tuesday at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, Ont., an initiative long championed by Mr. Flaherty and his wife, Christine Elliott, an Ontario MPP. Mr. Flaherty lived in Whitby and represented the political district.
Mr. Flaherty’s widow, as well as his triplet sons, received visitors through the afternoon and evening. More than 1,000 people had paid their respects by midafternoon, organizers said, with hundreds still in line. Some visitors laid a hand on the casket, others hugged Ms. Elliott.
Mr. Harper attended the visitation Tuesday night to offer condolences to Mr. Flaherty’s family.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, as well as local leaders and area residents, lined up earlier in the day to pay their respects – many of the men wearing green ties.
“He had a kind heart and always had time for people,” said Whitby Mayor Pat Perkins, who met Mr. Flaherty before he entered politics, when they both had businesses in the community’s downtown.
Among the local politicians visiting were Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, who came with their mother, Diane. They declined to talk to reporters. The Fords are family friends of Mr. Flaherty.
Gesturing to the Abilities Centre, Mr. Alexander said of Mr. Flaherty: “This is why he was in politics.”
Mr. Alexander, who represents a nearby riding, said residents remember the former finance minister as “Jim. Their guy.”
Anne Sado, president of George Brown College, said she met Mr. Flaherty and his wife through mutual friends shortly after her son and their triplets were born.
“I would come to dinner with one high chair and they would come with three. About an hour before anyone else was leaving, they were already packing,” she remembered.
“He was genuine,” she said. “He reached out and he put programs behind his efforts.”
Mr. Flaherty’s casket will depart Whitby under police escort midafternoon Wednesday and arrive at the cathedral in downtown Toronto just before 3 p.m. ET. Members of the public are invited to pay their respects, and organizers say there will be speakers set up outside the church so crowds gathered there can listen to the service.
State funerals are customarily given to current and former prime ministers and governors-general, as well as to cabinet ministers who die while in cabinet. Mr. Flaherty had been out of cabinet a few weeks, but the Prime Minister can grant state funerals in special cases. It has been done twice previously, most recently for Jack Layton in 2011, and it was arranged for Mr. Flaherty “in honour of his years of dedicated service to the Canadian people.”