Penashue says late finance minister took a fair and balanced approach to politics.
© The Telegram file photo
Former federal finance minister, Jim Flaherty
Peter Penashue remembers fondly that, unlike a lot of other politicians in Ottawa, Jim Flaherty never wanted to be the centre of attention. And the way the former finance minister carried himself exemplified that trait.
“Whenever he walked into a meeting, he would always take the seat furthest away from the centre, so he could have a good view of what’s happening,” recalled Penashue, the former Conservative Member of Parliament for Labrador.
“He’s not your typical high-intense, egotistical politician. He’s very calm, very sensible, very reasonable.”
Flaherty, who resigned as federal finance minister March 18, 2014, passed away suddenly April 10 in his Ottawa condo.
The unexpected news sent shockwaves across Canada. When Penashue received word from his wife, Mary Ann, about Flaherty’s passing, his first reaction was one of disbelief.
“Well, I was in a meeting and Mary Ann texted me, saying that Flaherty had died; it’s on the news.”
“So I went on the Internet to see whether that was real or not. And, sure enough, he had passed away.”
During his time as Labrador’s MP, between 2011 and 2013, Penashue also served as minister of intergovernmental affairs. While sitting at the cabinet table, Penashue came to admire Flaherty’s balanced and fair approach to politics.
Like many of Flaherty’s former colleagues have noted, Penashue remembers the former finance minister as having a knack for hearing everyone’s opinion.
“He never spoke first. I always remember him waiting until everyone spoke,” recalled Penashue. “And then, when he spoke, he always took a very balanced, very sensible approach.
“I would describe him as a grandfather type of person in the room when there were discussions.”
Flaherty’s down-to-earth political style carried over to social settings. Penashue says Flaherty was the type to arrive a little late to a party, and never was one to carry an entourage with him.
“In social settings, you usually see ministers with one or two staff members. And they have those staff members because you never want to be caught in a situation where you said things and there was a dispute about what you said to others,” said Penashue.
“But, with Mr. Flaherty, he always traveled alone, even in those social functions.”
Penashue says he is saddened by the timing of Flaherty’s death, which occurred less than a month after stepping down as finance minister. Those who knew Flaherty say he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“The other thing that I always remember was him talking about his three boys,” Said Penashue. “He was obviously very fond of his children.
“You would hope that someone who had been working in public service for that length of time, making his contribution and mark, that he would have some time to spend with his family and enjoy life.”
In terms of legacy, Penashue believes Flaherty will be remembered as a finance minister committed to balancing the budget and creating more jobs.
“He always reminded everyone that we needed the budget in control,” said Penashue.
“He was a good coach and good support for making sure that we’re moving in the right direction in regards to the economy … and creating jobs.”