Jim Flaherty tributes flow at visitation
Thousands waited in a long line Tuesday to bid Jim Flaherty a final farewell and pay their respects to his grieving family.
Some at the Abilities Centre remembered him as the man responsible for keeping Canada’s economy on track. Others remembered him for his advocacy for people with disabilities.
Bill Thompson never met the former finance minister but he credits the Whitby-Oshawa MP and his wife, MPP Christine Elliott, for helping open the fully accessible centre and improving his life.
Seated in a mobility scooter, the 53-year-old admitted he doesn’t “get out much” but once the centre opened in 2012, he signed up within weeks.
The centre has “completely changed my life,” Thompson said, who goes there to exercise and socialize.
“I’m profoundly grateful that he is one of the founding members of establishing this place,” he added.
In a fitting tribute, the centre hosted two visitations for Flaherty Tuesday.
More than 2,000 people attended, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, as well as residents of Flaherty’s riding.
Most visitors incorporated green into their outfits, acknowledging Flaherty’s Irish descent.
Federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt said she “had to come” because Flaherty “changed my life.”
“It’s sad that we talk about the greatness of a human being after they’ve passed,” she said. “I wish I’d had more chances to tell him how much he meant to me.”
Many who met Flaherty would feel a real connection to him as a friend, said Leo Plue, the Abilities Centre’s executive director.
“Because they had a chance to talk to him on the GO train platform or in Tim Hortons or the local mall or an airport, wherever,” he said. “He was genuine, he was real, he was authentic.”
Lillian Beamish, 82, said while she would normally not vote Conservative, she did vote for Flaherty.
“He had that twinkle in his eye and he just was a wonderful person, and we are so fortunate to have had him looking after things for us down there,” the longtime Durham Region resident said before heading in to pay her respects.
Former director of communications Chisholm Pothier fondly recalled his time in the minister’s office as “professionally a very fulfilling experience but also personally pretty rewarding as well.”
Flaherty was a man of “great character and integrity” whom he considered a friend, Pothier said.
“We’d work hard when we were on the road, travelling all over the world,” he said. “But at the end of the working day, we’d stop and we’d have a nice meal and a couple of drinks and maybe see the sites.”
Flaherty’s wife and his triplet sons did take “some comfort from the love and affection that has been shown for Jim Flaherty here today,” Pothier added.
A state funeral for Flaherty is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at Toronto’s St. James Cathedral.
Coverage of the visitation: Click here for a mobile-friendly version.