Arthur WILLIAMS/ Prince George Citizen
April 11, 2014 05:06 AM
Local MPs paid tribute to former finance minister Jim Flaherty on Thursday, following the news that Flaherty had died suddenly in his home in Ottawa.
Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris said Flaherty was both an excellent manager of the federal budget and a friendly, open person who always took the time to listen.
"I along with so many of our colleagues and Jim's friends and family, we'll all feel a little something gone today, tomorrow and the next day. It is certainly too soon for him to leave us," Harris said. "I think he was the consummate leader. He guided Canada through some very difficult economic times. He never wavered in his belief that we were going to make it through and come out the other side. This, ironically, was the year we were going to come out of it."
Harris said Flaherty was always willing to take input from his colleagues.
"From the day Jim Flaherty arrived on the hill... I found him an easy minister to talk to," Harris said. "When he was consulting with the MPs in the prebudget time he was very eager and genuinely wanted to know what you thought. I'm happy to say that some of the things... I mentioned to him came to fruition."
Although Flaherty often joked about his short stature, "he left giant shoes to fill," Harris said.
Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer said while he and others knew Flaherty had been battling a rare illness from some time "it was a shock to all of us," to hear that he'd died.
"There was just a surreal quietness in the House of Commons -a real sadness," Zimmer said. "...He'll be missed, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family."
The success Canada had in surviving the Great Recession was in part because of Flaherty's skillful management of the economy, Zimmer added.
"[He] was just a steady hand at the wheel," he said.
But despite handling a difficult portfolio in challenging times -and battling personal illness -Flaherty always retained his sense of humour, he said.
"Even in the most hotly-debated issues... he'd bring some levity to it," Zimmer said. "He had a way of connecting with you. He had a big portfolio, but he could still talk to the regular folks. He had that way about him."
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP, and NDP finance critic, Nathan Cullen said he and Flaherty didn't see eye to eye on policy, but Flaherty was a Conservative who earned his respect.
"I very much consider his a colleague. I didn't always care for his budgets, but I did care and respect the man," Cullen said. "He was able to separate the personal and the political. It felt like when you were speaking to Jim Flaherty, you were speaking to Jim Flaherty - not just someone from the prime minister's [inner circle]."
Cullen said he respected Flaherty's commitment to continue working even though, "it was apparent to everybody that the illness was very tough on him."
Cullen said he and Flaherty bounded over being proud Irish Canadians and would often poke fun at the other's Irish heritage.
The timing of his sudden death, only a month after retiring from politics, is particularly saddening, Cullen said.
"His family, they deserved more time with him. I'm sure they made sacrifices while he was in politics. It's hard to be normal with a politicians schedule," he said. "I feel for them right now."
Former Finance Canada employee Nicholas Fedorkiw, now a Prince George-based energy consultant, said he was impressed with Flaherty when he took over the finance minister position in 2006. Fedorkiw worked as an economist for Finance Canada from 2002 to 2008.
"Being part of the civic service... there was very high expectations for him. There was a lot of people who didn't think the Conservatives were up to running the country. He surpassed all expectations," Fedorkiw said. "He really had a good grasp of what the people the people wanted. He really listened to those grassroots party members and the general public."
At the same time, he was willing to make the hard decisions: like taxing income trusts.
"I worked for the tax policy branch when that happened," he said. "He had to do it, it looked like every corporation in Canada was going to [convert to a trust.]"
Fedorkiw said he met Flaherty several times during his tenure with Finance Canada, and again at the Conservative Party convention in Calgary last year.
"He liked to play up his Irish roots, so he hosted Guiness parties," he said. "That was the last time I saw him... we shared a Guiness together."
© Copyright 2014
Neil Godbout/ Prince George Citizen
April 11, 2014 05:07 AM
It's been a tough week for the experts.
The Harper Conservatives have been taking turns punting around the Chief Election Officer, political scientists and anyone else with professional understanding of the Fair Elections Act. Anyone with the nerve to question their good intentions must be an elitist, ivory tower snob (a Liberal, in other words) or a tax-and-spend socialist (the NDP).
We already know what the Conservatives think of researchers that study climate change and the effects of natural resource development on ecosystems.
The Conservatives lower themselves to the level of their Republican counterparts in the U.S. when they dismiss academics and other experts with some anti-intellectual mumbo-jumbo about common sense and the wisdom of the average joe. What the Conservatives really mean is they like science and academic rigour when it agrees with their ideology, such as a review panel that endorses the building of the Northern Gateway pipeline with conditions. Expertise that runs counter to their ideology, however, must be politically-motivated junk science.
But it's not just the folks on the right side of the political spectrum that choose ideology over science.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen loved the panel's report discouraging approval of the construction of the New Prosperity mine but harshly criticized the recommendations made to the federal government by the Northern Gateway panel. That panel spent thousands of hours hearing from hundreds of expert witnesses and pored over tens of thousands of documents regarding the proposed pipeline. To suggest, as Cullen did, that the three-member panel got it all wrong is to dismiss their intelligence and their expertise.
Cullen is as ideologically opposed to Northern Gateway as Dick Harris is ideologically in support of New Prosperity. At the end of the day, no amount of science could actually convince Cullen that the pipeline is worth building and Harris that the mine is not.
It gets even worse when the politicians introduce ethics and their personal morality into the equation.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said Wednesday that he is against the Vancouver Aquarium keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
If Robertson got off his high horse long enough to inform himself about the Vancouver Aquarium's mission, he'd quickly change his tune.
For starters, researchers have been studying beluga whales at the aquarium for decades to help gain a greater understanding of the effects of rapidly changing ecosystems.
Secondly, the aquarium is proud of its status as the only Canadian facility with the resources to rescue and rehabilitate injured marine animals. When those animals sustain injuries that make it impossible for them to be released back into the wild, they become permanent residents at the aquarium.
Would Robertson prefer aquarium staff euthanize the animals unable to be set free?
And even if those issues weren't in play, there are still good reasons for the Vancouver Aquarium to keep whales and dolphins.
Chances are that more than a few of the marine biologists working at the aquarium and elsewhere made their career choice in childhood, after a wide-eyed visit to a place like the Vancouver Aquarium, where they could see these beautiful creatures in a safe environment and up close.
Furthermore, the aquarium and other marine facilities do a great job of informing the paying public about the damage people are doing to marine habitats and telling them what they can do to help fix the problem. Even if most people don't lift a finger to address the issue, at least they're better informed than they were before they walked in the door.
And then there's the paying public. Those admission tickets help pay for the rescue and rehabilitation of those injured animals, as well as either their reintroduction back into the wild or their long-term residency at the aquarium.
For those who could care less about the critters, the aquarium employs more than 400 people and makes a significant contribution to Vancouver's tourism industry.
There are plenty of good reasons to leave the Vancouver Aquarium alone to do its great work.
And there are plenty of good reasons for politicians to have more faith in science and rational inquiry, than ideology and emotion, when making difficult and complicated decisions.
© Copyright 2014