Jim Flaherty

From Academic Kids

James (Jim) Michael Flaherty (born December 30, 1949) is a politician in Ontario, Canada, and the current Member of Provincial Parliament for Whitby—Ajax, representing the Progressive Conservative Party. He was previously a senior cabinet minister in the government of Mike Harris, and has unsuccessfully sought the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives on two occasions.

Flaherty holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University, as well as an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall. He practised law before entering political life, and became a senior partner at the firm Flaherty Dow Elliott. He first ran for the Ontario legislature in the provincial election of 1990, but finished third against New Democrat Drummond White and Liberal Allan Furlong in the riding of Durham Centre. He ran again in the 1995 election, and this time defeated Furlong and White during a significant regional shift in favour of his party.

He was named Minister of Labour in the Cabinet of Premier Mike Harris on October 10, 1997, and kept this position until after the 1999 election. He also served as interim Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services from April 27 to July 27, 1998, when Minister Bob Runciman temporarily resigned from active duty after revealing privileged information in the legislature.

Flaherty was easily re-elected in the 1999 election in the redistributed riding of Whitby--Ajax, and was named Attorney General with responsibility for Native Affairs on June 17, 1999. On February 8, 2001, he was promoted to Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier. It was during this period that Flaherty became identified as one of the most right-wing figures in the Harris administration. He was a key promoter of tax credits for parents sending their children to private and denominational schools, which the Tories had campaigned against in 1999. Minister of Education Janet Ecker did not support this policy change, and there are reports that she considered leaving cabinet after its announcement.

Flaherty ran to succeed Harris at the 2002 Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership election, losing to Ernie Eves. His leadership campaign focused on 'law and order' themes, and one of his most controversial proposals was to make homelessness illegal. Flaherty's plan was to have special constables encourage homeless persons to seek out shelters or hospitals; critics described the plan as callous, and ineffective against the root causes of homelessness. Flaherty also promised to implement further tax cuts, carry through with plans to create a tax credit for parents sending their children to private school, and privatizing the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Flaherty also emerged as a social conservative in this campaign, distinguished by his vocal stance against abortion, and his association with pro-life groups.

On April 15, 2002, Eves appointed him to the less-prominent position of Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation. He retained this position until the Tories were defeated in the provincial election of 2003. Flaherty himself was re-elected, though by a sharply reduced margin.

Prior to the 2003 election, Flaherty appeared as a speaker at a "Canadians for Bush" rally in the Niagara region, organized by controversial right-wing minister Tristan Emmanuel in support of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

Following the defeat of the Conservatives, Eves announced that he would resign as leader in 2004. Flaherty declared himself a candidate to succeed him, but was defeated by John Tory by a margin of 54% to 46% on the second ballot of the leadership election held on September 18 2004. His supporters included former cabinet ministers John Baird, Tim Hudak and Norm Sterling.

Flaherty's 2004 leadership campaign was similar to that of 2002. He again emphasized right-wing themes, including further tax cuts and greater privatization. He also promised to create EXCEL scholarships, wherein students attaining high grades in high school would have half their university tuition paid by the goverment.

Flaherty, who currently serves as finance critic under Tory, has been nominated for the Conservative Party of Canada to seek a seat in Canadian House of Commons in the next federal election. He will be legally required to resign his seat in the Ontario legislature when an federal election is called.

On June 13, 2005 the Canadian news website reported that a meeting of prominent Conservative organizers and fundraisers had been held to plan for a Flaherty bid for leader of the federal party should Stephen Harper choose or be forced to step down.

See also: 2004 Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership election


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