In the current political day, the finance minister can be the rock star. At least that’s the case when he or she is in charge and the economy booms. Or better yet, this government money manager defies the odds and brings the budget back to balance despite a turbulent economy.
Many Canadians will be sad to see Jim Flaherty go as he bows out from his cabinet post in Stephen Harper’s government. He was handed the job right after the Conservatives’ election in 2006, he was there when the recession hit and he’s been there through thick and thin, virtually bringing the books back to black this year, although officially he said that goal would be achieved a year from now.
If many Canadians felt confident in the Conservative government for its handling of the economy, most will largely attribute it to this man.
In the meantime, Flaherty has stepped down – not a huge surprise, since he’d been sounding non-committal about running in next year’s election. He’s headed back to the private sector. His successor, Joe Oliver, was named Wednesday.
Canadians will also miss Flaherty because he was one of the few Harper cabinet ministers who would occasionally speak his mind. Recall when he mused out loud about whether the promised income-splitting measure was really a wise move. He got some flak from fellow cabinet members who said a promise is a promise.
Some will wonder, when Harper accepted Flaherty’s resignation, whether it genuinely was with “reluctance.”
Not to take away from Oliver’s chances at captivating the same respect, but much of the groundwork has been laid for the return to a strong fiscal position next year. That said, the new minister will have to work hard to ensure the pattern of improvement does not falter.
But so much of voters’ choices is about fleeting perceptions. As we head toward an election next year, the Conservatives will be campaigning on solid economic performance, but the poster child of that performance won’t be among the players.