Special coverage: Jim Flaherty's state funeral

Jenny Yuen, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:24 PM ET

TORONTO — He my have been short in stature but Jim Flaherty was a giant on the world stage.

Nearly 2,000 people packed downtown Toronto's St. James Cathedral and overflow areas Wednesday to say goodbye to Flaherty — the man they knew as a family man, a public servant and politician who strived to stabilize Canada's economy.

Flaherty died suddenly at the age of 64 from a heart attack last Thursday in his Ottawa condo after resigning from his post as finance minister just a month ago.

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A long list of dignitaries attended the state funeral, all given green cotton sashes to wear. Nine Mounties served as pallbearers, carrying the flag-draped casket into the church.

"From the first moment I met Jim almost 34 years ago, I knew I had met someone special," said Flaherty's widow, MPP Christine Elliott, as their triplet sons — Galen, John and Quinn — stood behind her.

"He was the most intelligent man I had ever met and his clarity of thought was unparalleled. He wanted to make a difference in people's lives.”

Quinn said his father loved telling the story when he and his brothers were born at Women's College Hospital on March 12, 1991. Minutes after they came into the world, the senior Flaherty went across the street to Fran's diner for a burger and a cold beer.


State Funeral for Jim Flaherty at St. James Cathedral in downtown Toronto on Wednesday April 16, 2014. (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)

"He was certainly wondering what many new fathers contemplate — how in the heck am I going to be able to do this?" he said. "Well, dad, you're the best father three boys could ever ask for.”

In a heartfelt eulogy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said appointing Flaherty to finance minister was one of the best decisions made for Canada.

"He was the complete package," Harper said, reciting Canada's economic strength during uncertain economic times around the world. “That is Jim Flaherty's legacy to the people of this country.”

Born Dec. 30, 1949, in Lachine, Que., Flaherty was one of eight siblings.

He attended Princeton University on a hockey scholarship. He later earned a law degree from York University's Osgoode Hall.

A practising lawyer prior to public life, Flaherty served for a decade as MPP for Whitby-Ajax — a riding east of Toronto he called home — beginning in 1995.

Twice, he unsuccessfully sought the leadership for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

He won the Whitby-Oshawa riding in the federal election in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2011.

Condolences came from across the country — and transcended party lines.

"He was a great public servant, with whom I disagreed with frequently," said Liberal MP Scott Brison prior to the service, wearing a green tie to honour Flaherty's Irish roots. "In politics sometimes we can disagree without being disagreeable."

Ted Driehuis, 73, said he didn't know him personally, but wished to pay his respects as a member of the public.

"I admire him for all his efforts. He only really lived a simple life for the past three weeks."


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