Opinion

Editorial — Jim Flaherty leaves tough shoes to fill

The resignation of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Tuesday is a pivotal moment for the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Flaherty has been the only finance minister  Harper has had, since he became prime minister in January, 2006. A former Ontario finance minister, he has developed a reputation for being careful with taxpayers’ dollars, seeking ways to save them money (a reduction in the GST and Tax Free Savings Accounts being two examples) and paying down the debt as soon as possible. In many ways, he resembles Paul Martin, who was one of Canada’s most successful finance ministers and did a great deal to keep the government of Jean Chretien in power.

Unlike Martin, Flaherty is moving beyond federal politics. Martin coveted Chretien’s job and the struggle between them did a great deal of damage to the government and the Liberal Party.

Harper does not have a lot of ministers or backbenchers who could replace Flaherty. He has chosen Joe Oliver, the 73-year-old natural resources minister, to take over. Clearly, his tenure will not be as long as Flaherty’s.

Oliver does have a lot of experience in the financial industry, and is a competent minister. He should be able to take the government into the October, 2015 election.

He does not have the experience of overseeing the massive spending of a large government body.

However, he can use the tools Flaherty has handed over, and present a balanced budget in the next fiscal year. That will be a plus for a government going into the election.

Economic competence is one of the Conservative government’s core strengths, and is vital for a finance minister.

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