Jim Flaherty: A genuine and thoughtful man

Prior to joining Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health (Ontario Shores), I worked in the media for 20 years, where my last stop as a journalist and managing editor at Metroland Durham afforded me the opportunity to meet and interview an infinite number of people.

However, I will always remember the first time I met Jim Flaherty.

It’s not easy to say that about everyone you meet, especially as a journalist whose days of interviews tend to be manic and a bit of a blur.

Having covered local politics I had quickly learned the game and understood that we in the media wanted something from the people we interviewed and those we spoke to wanted something from us. As a result, there was often an uneasy dance of faux interest and admiration to get the good press.

That wasn’t Jim Flaherty.

From that very first meeting as he stepped into the political life that would propel him to one of this nation’s greatest politicians, I knew right away there was no façade protecting some hidden agenda. With Jim what you saw is what you got and when he spoke to people it was because he had a genuine interest and not because that was something you are supposed to do in Politics 101.

On Thursday afternoon news broke surrounding Jim’s death. The former Finance Minister, Whitby-Oshawa MP and husband to Christine Elliott, MPP for Whitby-Oshawa, was discovered in his Ottawa condo less than a month after resigning from the federal cabinet to take on new challenges in the private sector and enjoy time with his family. He was 64.

I still treasure the letter he sent to my wife and I on our upcoming marriage; his words of encouragement and support; not just congratulations but a deeper connection and wisdom that resonated. As Ontario’s Attorney General I know he had a lot of more important things on his plate, but that was the type of man Jim was. No matter how prominent he rose in provincial or federal politics he was still the same man he was in 1995 when he was first elected to office.

That is what made him so special and those values and convictions live today in his wife and their three sons. Regardless of your political stripes, he was a champion for this community and was driven to ensure that this nation would remain strong well into the future.

Jim was here at Ontario Shores in 1996 when the new hospital was officially opened and visited most recently last year for a TD funding announcement to support environmental enhancements to our centre. He was everywhere.

It’s hard to imagine this community without him. For my one story there are thousands more that all speak to how he made a positive personal connection and left a lasting impact on our lives.

I am sure there will be a number of ways this community will honour his life and legacy but for now I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.