Why is he leaving now?
Bye bye Jimmy!
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quit the Harper cabinet suddenly this week creating a huge mystery over his departure.
Only a month ago Flaherty said he had no intention of leaving politics until next year. So why did he suddenly change his mind?
Flaherty does have a terrible skin disease - bullous pemphigoid – an auto-immune disorder which puffs up the skin on his face. But it is no worse now than it was previously.
Flaherty said he is not leaving because of illness. He just wants to spend more time with his family.
He says he will stay on as an MP until he finds a job in the private sector. That should not take long. Flaherty is highly respected in the world of finance and banking and he’s also an experienced lawyer.
Flaherty and Harper had a major difference of opinion about the government’s income splitting legislation which is a tax plan to help the richest 15% of the population at the expense of the other less fortunate 85%.
Harper wants to use it again in the 2011 election, while Flaherty rejects it as an injustice to families who are not as well-off.
The two men have contradicted each other publicly in the Commons on the issue. Most of the Conservative MPs are on Harper’s side.
Flaherty has also come to the defense of his old friend, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, while Conservative cabinet colleagues have attacked Ford repeatedly.
The great misfortune Flaherty had during his eight years as finance minister was that he was never able to balance his federal budget.
Flaherty inherited a $ 12 billion surplus from Paul Martin's Liberals in 2006 but even before the 2008 recession struck Canada, he had spent it all and racked up a deficit.
And then it was one deficit after another, year after year. Flaherty predicted once again last month that there will be no deficit next year.
Now it seems he won’t be around to celebrate that, even if he is finally right this time. Meanwhile the federal debt has reached horrendous proportions -- more than $600 billion, a record in Canadian history.
It didn’t take Harper long to find a replacement for Flaherty. Had Harper advance warning that Flaherty was leaving?
Only a day after the resignation announcement, Harper announced that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, 73, a native of Montreal and a McGill University graduate would be the new finance minister.
Oliver is the oldest finance minister in Canada since William Fielding in 1925, but he knows the financial community, is bilingual and also a former chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission.
Oliver is closer to Harper than was Flaherty in thought as well as in his approach to politics.
This bodes well for the Conservative Party.
And for the Canadian people?
At least, they hope so.