Archived posts

Jim Flaherty’s Death Does Not Warrant the Hero Worship he Has Been Receiving

I shouldn’t have to open this post with I’m sorry for Flaherty’s family’s loss. That is a given.  In fact, I can empathize. I have lost people recently.  I really hope Flaherty’s family finds the strength to continue with their lives.  It’s one reason why I haven’t really spoken of it on Thursday on social media.  In fact, I was going to wait a week before writing a post like this. However, after all the hero worship Flaherty has been getting since he passed on last Thursday has been getting tedious, nauseating and beyond.

This post will simply be an expansion of this article.

Even Thomas Walkom of the Star, a writer I ordinarily enjoy reading, I felt, attempted to go out of his way to find nice things to say about Flaherty. Let’s not kid ourselves. It was what it was and still is; a finance minister of both the Mike Harris years and subsequently the Harper years who played large roles in Harper’s path of destruction. We no longer recognize Canada largely because of him.  Even worse, he came from a working class family, and so obviously forgotten where he came from.  Many of humble beginnings sadly forget where they came from.  Whatever good things he did were so few and far between were obviously due to ulterior motives.

For openers, his Registered Disability Savings Plan. A good measure, but a cynic capable of critical thinking must realize that there was a personal stake in it for him–one of his own children is disabled. Had it not been for this fact, would a pro-austerity, deregulation and pro “free market” hard liner have even considered something even remotely resembling compassion?

Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star erroneously pointed out that both Harper & Flaherty deserved credit for putting out a stimulus package in 2008.

Yes, he and Harper had the good sense to back away from austerity in the midst of the 2008-09 economic meltdown. Instead, Canada took part in an international effort to stimulate jobs. Both men deserve credit for that.

Uh, the only reason they put out stimulus packages, kicking and screaming, I might add,  was thanks to the threat of that “Liberal party being propped up by socialists and separatists”.  Yup, the threat of that evil coalition that sent many for the fainting couches.  If one recalls what really happened back then, Harper & Flaherty made an economic statement that they were not going to do anything to stimulate the economy — the only country out of the G-20 that was not going to do anything.  In fact, both Stevie and Flaherty were arrogantly in denial over the Great Recession of 2008. Almost immediately afterward, the threat of that dastardly coalition of sorts came and Harper prorogued and Flaherty had no choice but to implement stimulus.  So no, neither Flaherty nor Stevie Spiteful deserves any credit for that.

Once they got their coveted majority, when there were recent calls to stimulate the economy, both Stevie and Flaherty did the exact opposite — they  plowed  ahead with their austerity measures.  Many of the most hideous measures hidden conveniently in multiple page omnibus bills.  Many measures that had nothing to do with budgets, but all the material essential for a destructive path to take a country.  Sure they had help from their henchmen, but it’s Flaherty and Harper’s names on those omnibus bills and budgets.  For that they must wear it.

Speaking of austerity and eulogizing a finance minister, who will remember all those irreversibly harmed by those very austerity measures?

The inquiry into the Walkerton E-Coli tragedy where 7 people died and 2,300 became seriously ill in May, 2000 revealed that the provincial government of the day — Mike Harris’s “Progressive” Conservative Party was to blame.

Underlying the failures of the Walkerton PUC and the MOE, however, were government of Ontario cutbacks. How deep were the cuts? In the years leading up to the Walkerton tragedy, the MOE’s budget was reduced by 68 per cent and its staffing by 40 per cent.


O’Connor’s report on the Walkerton tragedy is scathing in its assessment of the provincial government’s role: “Before the decision was made to significantly reduce the MOE’s budget in 1996, senior government officials, ministers and the cabinet received numerous warnings that the impacts could result in increased risks to the environment and human health . . . The decision to proceed with the budget reductions was taken without either an assessment of the risks or the preparation of a risk management plan.”

More here.

The report says the system failed on several fronts. It says:

  • The government failed to put proper safeguards into place after privatizing the water supply
  • The men who ran the town’s water supply, Stan and Frank Koebel, lied and cheated to cover their tracks
  • A weakened Ministry of Environment failed to detect the problem
  • The local health unit didn’t issue a wide enough boil-water alert
  • The town’s water officials didn’t respond properly to quality concerns raised by the environment ministry in 1998

“This could have been prevented,” said O’Connor, unveiling the report before a crowd of residents and the media in Walkerton.
“One of the things that should come from this is that we should be learning the lessons of what went wrong in Walkerton and we should design our system dealing with the different aspects of delivering safe drinking water so as to ensure that people in Ontario never face the tragedy and the trauma that the people of Walkerton have had to endure,” he said.

Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report is here.

There you have it.  Flaherty held key portfolios under Mike Harris’s government at the time. He of all people, should have learned what deregulation and such cuts would do from the Walkerton disaster. However, fast forward to  the 2011, Flaherty’s budgets saw to growing cuts to environmental regulations. In the latest budget, Environment Canada would see its’ budget cut in half from 2007.  Cuts to Environment Canada were and are surely to deal the final death knell to the agency.  See Bill C-45, the second everything but the kitchen sink bill that sparked the Idle No More Movement.  The omnibus bill that implements all such cuts to the environment. It cut protections to our millions of lakes and rivers. Bill C-45 also means the violation of First Treaty Rights. Bruce Hyer, former NDP MP now sitting for the Green Party had this to say:

“the first nations of northwestern Ontario are concerned that their rights have been trampled by Bill C-45, the government’s omnibus budget bill. Concerns include leasing of reserve land, on-reserve voting rights and scrapping the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which reduced protection of millions of our lakes and rivers to less than 200. No longer protected are northwestern Ontario rivers like the Kaministiquia, or the Nipigon River, home of the largest speckled trout in the world. “
“neither has the Prime Minister consulted with scientists, academics, small businesses, Canadian workers, NGOs, provincial premiers, or Parliament, including his own backbenchers”
~ Bruce Hyer- MP for Thunder Bay

Cuts to food inspection and deregulation led to increased diseases such as E-Coli and Listeria and will continue to do so.  The largest food recall (Maple Leaf Listeria scandal) in history happened under this government’s watch.  Twenty-Two Canadians died as a result. I believe that is when we heard Agriculture minister at the time, Gerry Ritz, making the sick joke of “death by a thousand cold cuts”.  Who could also forget the scandal at XL Foods? Sure one can blame the ministry of agriculture for this, but ultimately, these cuts were written into budgets and omnibus bills with Flaherty’s name on them.

Who can also forget further cuts and deregulation to rail inspections, thus the laissez-faire attitude of letting the rail industry regulate itself.  These deregulations and cut to inspections led to more serious rail disasters such as the ones we’ve seen in Alberta and the disaster in Lac-Megantic last summer which saw about 50 people killed.  So many who lost their homes and their livelihoods because of this disaster.

Let’s rewind back to the Kimberly Rogers incident, a pregnant 40 year old woman, placed under house arrest for welfare fraud who ended up dead, alone and destitute in her own apartment in Sudbury.  It is believed that she committed suicide.  Her death led to a public inquiry.  As many now know, it was Mike Harris’ massive cuts to welfare and social housing  that led to this tragedy. Again, Flaherty was in his government, holding key portfolios, thus, like the rest of them, he owns it.

Again, fast forward to the Harper years.

Flaherty was also part of cuts to healthcare at both provincial and federal levels. As the Council of Canadians wrote last week in an article titledBroken Promises and Abdication: Flaherty’s Healthcare Legacy, “March 31 marks the end of the 2004 Health Accord and the last day Canadian health care will have equalization payments to have-not provinces, national standards, and federal funding tied to achieving set benchmarks. March 31 is also a day to mourn the fact that we remain the only wealthy country with a universal health-care system and no national pharmacare plan.” Healthcare cuts kill, including the Tories’ inhumane cuts to refugee health–denying basic health care to people who had fled rape, torture and war.
While Harper has never made it any secret how much he despises universal health care but is ga ga giddy over the American health care system he so wants in Canada, we must remember that the latest Harpercon budget  with Flaherty’s name on them have put an end to equalization payments to the provinces for  health care, thus making it problematic for provinces to maintain universality in health care delivery.  Cuts to health care to the tune of 36 Billion $ and no doubt climbing.  In the US, we have heard the frightening stories of people state side who go bankrupt or die simply because they had no money to pay for health care. We are at risk, no mistake about that.
Flaherty also had a hand in defunding Sisters in Spirit, a group under the that investigates and seeks justice for missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  Sisters in Spirit was probably the only group that had a voice for those victims.
The hideous new Veterans Charter of the Harpercons further cuts benefits to disabled veterans, thus causing further harm. Way to “support the troops”. Again, this was all part of Flaherty’s budgets. How could we forget to the cuts in services to disabled veterans?  Eight service centres closed in response to nine vets who committed suicide inside three months just last winter.  This is but a few cuts to benefits and services to disabled veterans.
Now on to Bill C-4, the latest insanity of an omnibus bill. Bill C-4 takes aim at the working class. Among other hideous measures, it strips down health and safety standards in the work place, such as an employee no longer being allowed to refuse work due to health and safety issue.

The Bill changes the definition of “danger” to “imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person”.

  • Bill C-4 removes the concept of danger as a potential occurrence.  It removes the language of a “potential hazard”.  (Subsection 122(1))
  • Bill C-4 removes the idea that workers deserve protection from activities or conditions that could cause them danger in the future.
  • When you marry this up with the removal of the word “illness”, workers will likely not be able to claim protection from potential chronic or slow developing illnesses based on exposure to carcinogens (such as asbestos).
  • The new definition of danger also removes the concept of complaining about unsafe work based on its impact on a worker’s reproductive system.  The existing definition of danger permits complaints based on the impact to someone’s reproductive system.  The new definition eliminates that as a basis for complaint.

Workers, thanks to the help of labour unions, had fought long and hard for health and safety standards in the work place.  Bill C-4 is a regressive omnibus bill, just like the Harpercons’ other such kitchen sink bills,  that seeks to take us back to a time where occupational illnesses and injuries will cause irreparable harm on the working class.

While many will eulogize Jim Flaherty at the state funeral he is receiving this coming Wednesday, who will eulogize those who died directly or indirectly due to the policies of Flaherty,  Harper and his party’s path of destruction? Who will provide a voice for those impacted by those same regressive policies?  Who will stand up for the Kimberly Rogers of this world, the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the disabled veterans — dead or alive, those who got sick or died from terrible food poisoning diseases like listeriosis and E-coli, those killed or injured or who have lost homes and livelihoods  in rail disasters like what happened in Lac-Megantic last summer?
Jim Flaherty was no hero. In fact, he was everything the anti-hero is.  He does not merit the hero worshipping he has been receiving.  Oh and he certainly was no financial wizard.

15 comments to Jim Flaherty’s Death Does Not Warrant the Hero Worship he Has Been Receiving

  • janfromthebruce

    Great post CK. I live just down the road from Walkerton and my hubby ended up with ecoli having stopped in town for a refreshing beverage and on his way to a labour council protest for Violence Against Women.
    I am still really saddened that the Liberals didn’t stand fast and pull the plug on this minority govt in 2008 with a coalition govt formed with the NDP and supported with the BLOC. It was such a missed opportunity.

  • Ole Infidel

    Thank you Sister, for debunking much of the manufactured image.

    Jim Flaherty [and Harper’s Canada] was bequeathed a country that was apparently best positioned in the free & unfree world, to survive the self-serving Banker induced financial meltdown [second only to the bankers themselves of course]. Socialist and progressive policies have been implemented in Canada largely at the behest of NDP and LIberal governments; setting Canada up with one of the best health care, education and government regulatory regiments in the world. A regulatory system that used to [for the most part]control the excesses of predatory capitalism.

    Thus,’We’ entered the financial crisis better position to survive than most, and that had nothing to do with Harper, nor Mr Flaherty.

    However, governments and moreso Harper’s, have an obsession with propagating the myth that government creates jobs. And they have [moreso Harpers] an obsession with perpetuating the myth that government steers the economy; actually is is some kind of ‘control’ of it. Maintaining these two myths are essential to political survival. As long as the beer guzzling, NHL cheering mindless sheeple are diverted by Wayne Gretzky’s daughter’s chest measurements, one simply has to keep the myth alive.

    The main stream media in Canada, greatly assisted in manufacturing the image, perceived competency and warm sweater puppy images of both Harper and Jim Flaherty. The latter was continually, streamed across the cable tv netherworld as thoughtful. Finger-to-chin iconography, to suggest competancy and careful, midnight considerations, to rein in the big bad predatory capitalists and wolverine financeers.

    Flaherty’s draconian cuts to Canada’s environmental protections, in favor of unleashing poisonous mineral extraction; His increased funding of CSIS, the CSE, so as to facilitate increased electronic surveillance of Canadians, are for me [just] two of the most important areas where Jim’s policies were and continue to have a regressive impact on our lives. Wonder why we have a completely ineffective Senate…look no further than Harper’s suppression of democratic cooperation in it’s chambers. The systemic bootjacking of Canada’s union movement to the direct benefit of predatory capitalists, and I could go on for pages…

    Harper and his pod of dung kicking rednecks literally highjacked the Canadian Conservative movement and have systematically been incrementally moving Canada towards the radical right. Only the most contentious issues [abortion] are avoided; wait for it.

    While Jim Flaherty was I’m sure, a generally nice guy, didn’t kick dogs and got along with his neighbors, he was the financial instrumental cog in Harper’s Canada.

    I have always said, if your looking for reasonable Conservative values, vote Liberal. After all, historically, Canadian Liberals have always electioneered slight left of center, but governed ‘slightly’ right. Flaherty’s checkbook and Harper [continues] were dragging us incrementally towards fascism.

    For a detailed accounting of the mindset behaind our glorious leader, I would refer your readers to Emily Dee’s outstanding blog [which inexplicably has not been updated in the recent past]:

  • Lawlor Wm. Lee

    The posting is an elegant antidote to the political myopia we seem to have made a special practice of in Canada. Neo-liberalism is a ripping, tearing, horrible ideological poison that is just as damaging to society whether foisted on us by the bland and irascible Stephen or a guy who seemed to genuinely love his family (and has certainly provided for them as opposed to the working class families of the country) and had a nice smile.

  • Death to the death Etiquette

    “This demand for respectful silence […] is not just misguided but dangerous”

    hagiography: refers to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders


  • Gail Nestel

    Great Article! Thanks for the memories :(. I survived Flaherty’s cuts in Ontario so this is much appreciated. BTW Flaherty did not come from ‘humble beginnings’ check Wikipedia…I guess that myth is just part of his image making.

  • Lynn Graydon

    There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with a politician’s opinion and viewpoint. I don’t think it is hero worship at all to point out how much this man did for his country. Whether you agree with him or not should not the issue. Whether he made decisions you agree with or not should not the issue. The fact that he gave his life to his country for many years is worthy of the attention. It is not hero worship to point out what you believe to be worthy accomplishments. It is gratefulness for the duty and the sacrifice made to achieve such goals. Even if you don’t agree with the goals he achieved.

    ck Reply:

    You call policies and measures that have caused irreparable harm & even death a matter of opinion?? All those people harmed by his policies along with their families? Are we supposed to just say “screw ’em”??

  • Lynn Graydon

    No, I am not saying you should “just say screw ’em”. What I am saying is that you should show more respect for a man who has devoted the better part of his life to public service. There really isn’t need for your dramatics. The point I was trying to make is there is no hero worship as you claim. No one suggested he is a hero. They are simply pointing out some of the positive aspects of his life in politics. From what I understand he was not only well liked but well respected even by opposing political Party members. Something of a rarity in politicians. Your claim of hero worship is unfounded.

    Ole Infidel Reply:

    ‘unfounded’ ?

    Jim is being hailed as the top financial minister ‘in the world’ [read:worship]

    How does one get handed a country [from Chretien][at the start of the fin crash] in the best of financial shape of any G8 country, with the most stringent fin sector regulations in place to keep the predatory capitalists at bay… and then hold up the next fin minister as a saint ? IMHO, Flaherty had quite arguably, the softest job in the free world. If anything, his biggest battles would have been with Harper, the so called trained economist, who apparently fought Jim tooth and nail on most Conservative fin issues. Then the two of them toss their ideology in the piss pot, incurring a deficit to bail our their buddys in the banking and auto sectors, spending millions more to evoke an imaginary Jobs ACTION program, not the [re]mention all of Sister’s issues above.

    One of the challenges we have in society is playing politically correct with the powers to be when they screw up or are mediocre at best…’oh your honor, my client may be accused of raping a young lady, BUT look, he’s a boy scout leader, Chairman of the local Kiwanis Club, and sits on the board of governors of yadda yadda…, thus his high standing in our society, should negate any mention of blemishing his record and fine honor, blah, blah…

    I would argue that the higher up the social lader you climb, the more accountable one needs to be for both one’s successes and failures. To focus exclusively on the former, teaches us no lessons.

    Jim Flaherty did appear to go against the conventional Conservative grain, employing compassion and bringing in fin benefits for those disabled; However, comma, would he have done so, if his own kin was not thusly afflicted ?

    His deficit saved many in the banking sector, but now it results in the firing of many thousands in civil servants; those that were contributing to our environmental protection; scientifically based gov decisions, etc…

    You have to ask, what is the net effect ? I would suggest, that those who are praising Jim Flaherty, have never, did not, are not and never will, honestly look in the mirror asking that question, giving themselves honest and balanced answer.

    But than, that specific ability is another reason our society(s) are going down the drain.

    Put another way, are we better off as Canadians, since Stephen Harper bastardized Canada’s Progressive Conservative movement and took office ? I would think the answer is very obviously, no.

    And I used to vote Conservative…

    l.gagne Reply:

    a state funeral is for a prime minister not a finance minister. if he is aloud to have one what about our veteran who put 20 to 35 year of service for their country. who’s going to pay for that, well we know the public. I think if it was is friend like he said he should of paid for this funeral don’t you think?
    yes finance minister, they don’t deserve this kind of funeral, we will be the laughing stuck of the world went they see this.
    he didn’t do anything extraordinary! is job like he was suppose to. he cut a lot of program and specially medical care and were suffering for this today and the rest of our life.

    Lynn Graydon Reply:

    @ I.Gagne – My discussion and comments have nothing to do with whether Jim Flaherty should or should not have a state funeral or whether a Finance Minister should be allowed to have one. Attempting to argue with me about that is a waste of time. My point was only directed to what I perceive as a misrepresentation by calling the accolades of Mr. Flaherty “hero worship”. They are not hero worship, they are show of respect. Seems to me the people here have difficulty understanding the written word.

    ck Reply:

    And who shows respect for all those victims and their families I mentioned in my post?

    Merlin Reply:

    No respect for a man who gutted Canada, like he gutted Ontario.
    This remake is full complete and utter BS.
    You speak CON speak the man was a disaster dead or alive he hurt Canada
    and Canadians.
    If you can’t see that, then you are indeed a big part of the problem.

  • A. Berry

    This blog is so true. It is ridiculous to keep going on about the smaller little Irish man who did so many wonderful things for the Canadian public. Most politicians are in government due to failure else where.

  • […] Sister Sage’s Musings – Jim Flaherty’s Death Does Not Warrant the Hero Worship he Has … (I debated including anything about Flaherty, but this was too comprehensive to leave out) I shouldn’t have to open this post with I’m sorry for Flaherty’s family’s loss. That is a given.  In fact, I can empathize. I have lost people recently.  I really hope Flaherty’s family finds the strength to continue with their lives.  It’s one reason why I haven’t really spoken of it on Thursday on social media.  In fact, I was going to wait a week before writing a post like this. However, after all the hero worship Flaherty has been getting since he passed on last Thursday has been getting tedious, nauseating and beyond. […]