“Few countries are as dependent on trade or as integrated into the global financial system as Canada. Yet our financial sector continues to weather the turbulence better than many other countries”
— Jim Flaherty, commenting to the Financial Times, 2008
The Chinese will save the Canadian economy. At least that is what seems to be going through the mind of Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister of Canada. On a recent visit to China, Flaherty said that Canada would be keen to cooperate with the Asian superpower in finance, mining, forestry and manufacturing.
As the financial leader of what has been ranked as one of the soundest economies in the world, Flaherty’s trip to China along with Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney is a significant part of Canada’s plan to resuscitate the country’s export economy and lead Canada out of the fringes of recession.
Born James Michael Flaherty in Lachine, Quebec, Flaherty holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Law degree from the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. Before he entered the political arena, he was a practicing lawyer who later became a founding partner of a law firm specializing in motor vehicle accident and personal injury litigation.
His political career began when he ran for the Ontario legislature in the provincial election of 1990 and finished third. He was named Attorney General with responsibility for Native Affairs in 1999, and not much later in 2001 he was appointed Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier before becoming the Minister of Finance in 2006 in Stephen Harper’s new cabinet.
Flaherty is known for his sharp tongue and ready laugh and also for his early precautionary measures to insulate Canada from the global economic recession. Although the Canadian economy was in relatively healthy shape, the government took early measures like slashing perks, curbing spending and halting public subsidies for political parties. Not unlike many of his peers in other countries, Flaherty’s stimulus package received both hot and cold responses.. Recently, his usually optimistic demeanor was subdued as he declared that Canada’s economy may be showing signs of life but it is not completely out of the recession. His assessment clashes with that of the Bank of Canada, which effectively said that Canada’s recession would be over in the current quarter.
“Much needs to be done to ensure that Canada’s economy doesn’t slide back into negative territory,” said Flaherty. And his visit to China is precisely to ensure that and more. Canada’s relations with China had been frosty until Flaherty’s Conservative party took over the rule. Flaherty’s trip represents a new phase of diplomacy for a government that has been accused of alienating one of the world’s biggest economies by placing too much emphasis on China’s human rights issues. As China leads the world out of recession there has been a considerable thaw in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s relations with the country.
Quite a few Canadian financial institutions are relying on Flaherty to help them gain entry into China’s lucrative market, an economy that is mostly controlled by the government. With his sanguine outlook and fresh strategies, Flaherty might just be the key to China’s door.
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