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Public gathers in Toronto to watch Flaherty funeral

The casket of Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, arrives at St. James Cathedral for his state funeral in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014.


St. James Cathedral was packed with dignitaries, but outside hundreds of spectators gathered to watch Jim Flaherty's funeral procession. Some paid their respects solemnly, while others craned their necks and held their phones in the air taking pictures.

Gord McDonald from Brighton, Ont., arrived early and said he knew the former finance minister for decades. He was Mr. Flaherty's neighbour in Whitby, Ont., and worked on the campaigns of both Mr. Flaherty and his wife, Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliot.

Mr. McDonald said Mr. Flaherty always had a joke and a smile and never got angry.

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He believes Mr. Flaherty did a commendable job as finance minister – it weren't for him, Canada wouldn't have made it through the economic recession as well as it did. He said he had "a lot of respect" for Mr. Flaherty, even though he "lost a bit of money" when Mr. Flaherty made changes to income trusts.

Nikkie Edwards was filming the procession on her smartphone when she received a call from her boyfriend, who she said is Mr. Flaherty's nephew. The 20-year-old said her boyfriend, who is out of town, would be attending Mr. Flaherty's private funeral in Ottawa.

Ms. Edwards said Mr. Flaherty had recently talked to his nephew about going on vacation and spending more time with family.

She was paying tribute to Mr. Flaherty with her mother and a family friend.

Pia Jensen is in Toronto visiting family and wandered over "in honour of the man."

"He was more than a politician," she said, wiping back tears. "I think it's really sad what happened to him."

"I'm sorry, I'm just overcome," she said, her voice trailing off.

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Asked if there was anything else she wanted to say, Ms. Jensen struggled to get the words out. "Thank you," she whispered.

Roger Williams, 71, lived in Whitby when Mr. Flaherty was in provincial politics and although he wasn't very happy with him under former premier Mike Harris, he thinks Mr. Flaherty "did well for the country" during the financial crisis.

Some of the people who were making their way along the jam-packed sidewalk didn't know what was going on and a few people asked who had died.

James Thompson, who works nearby, knew what was going on and was honest about his reasons for coming out.

"Just to gawk, to look," he said. "I saw [Justin] Trudeau earlier. That was exciting."

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