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Jim Flaherty Obituary: 11 Ways He Changed Canada

11 Ways Jim Flaherty Changed Canada

Jim Flaherty, who passed away suddenly Thursday at 64, will go down in Canadian history books as one of the longest-standing and most well-respected finance ministers to serve this country.

His career as a Conservative politician spans nearly 20 years, having first been elected as an Ontario MPP in 1995. He then moved into federal politics and took on the role of federal finance minister in 2006. He went on to receive international acclaim, being named Finance Minister of the Year by Euromoney magazine in 2009, and winning respect and acclaim as one the country’s finest finance ministers even from his political rivals.

Here are a few of the ways Jim Flaherty will be remembered for changing Canada.

He steered Canada through the Great Recession
Flaherty balanced stimulus programs and fiscal management in efforts to keep Canada on an even keel during the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Canada emerged from that crisis as a bastion of economic stability among its G8 peers.
He got rid of the penny
The ever prudent finance minister said the penny would be no more during the delivery of his 2012 budget speech,saying the move would save Canadians some $11 million a year. “The penny is a currency without any currency in Canada,” he said in the speech.
He reduced the GST
Flaherty cut the GST rate twice during his time as finance minister, first cutting it from seven per cent to six per cent in the 2006 budget. He cut that rate again in 2008 to its current five per cent.
He balanced the budget (after unbalancing it)
The Conservatives, who inherited budgetary surpluses from the Liberals, fell into the red when they introduced a host of stimulus programs that helped the country bounce back from recession. Flaherty promised incessantly that his government would be able to fix the books by the 2015 election. In the delivery of his 2014 budget speech, he announced that the country was technically out of deficit, taking into account the $3-billion contingency fund.
He reined in mortgages
Flaherty took measures four times in four years to rein in Canada’s overheated housing market to bring it back from the brink of a bubble. He publicly took on banks that he felt were exercising what he believed to be irresponsible lending practices and made it harder for people to take on mortgages that could leave them in over their heads.
He fought corporate Canada over income trusts
In 2006, Flaherty made a controversial move to end tax exemptions for income trusts and said they’d be taxed the same way as corporations. In doing so, he broke a campaign promise to corporate Canada, who thought they had found a new shelter in trusts. The TSX lost more than 10 per cent of its value in the ensuing months.
He helped transform Ontario in the 1990s
Before his time in federal office, Jim Flaherty was a soldier in Ontario’s Common Sense Revolution under Premier Mike Harris. He held various roles including labour minister, attorney general and finance minister, during a time of tense union politics.
He launched Tax-Free Savings Accounts
The Whitby-Oshawa MP introduced the popular Tax-Free Savings Accounts, giving Canadians another incentive to save for retirement. The program was lauded when launched in the 2008 budget and Flaherty promised to double the contribution limit once the budget was balanced.
He launched the Registered Disability Savings Plan
Flaherty was instrumental in the 2007 introduction of the Registered Disability Savings Plan, a long-term plan to help Canadians with disabilities and their families save for a secure future. The usually stoic politician was emotional during a 2011 announcement of a government review of the program. His son John suffers a learning disability and has participated in the Special Olympics.
He introduced the Home Renovation Tax Credit
The tax back plan was introduced in the recession-era budget of 2009 to put a little more cash in consumers’ wallets and stimulate the all-important housing and construction industries.
He questioned a key Harper promise
Flaherty’s memorable moves are not all in the past. During his last days in office he very publicly and candidly questioned a Conservative election promise to introduce a tax policy would allow one spouse to transfer part of their income to a lower earning partner in order to avoid falling into a higher tax bracket. He asked whether the Conservative campaign pledge to allow income splitting would benefit all Canadians, a question that is sure to be central to the next election campaign in 2015, given critics' assertions that income-splitting would mostly benefit the wealthy.

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