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State funeral planned for Jim Flaherty

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks with the media in the foyer of the House of Commons, October 22, 2013 in Ottawa. Flaherty died Thursday April 10, 2014. He was 64. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld -
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks with the media in the foyer of the House of Commons, October 22, 2013 in Ottawa. Flaherty died Thursday April 10, 2014. He was 64. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Jim Flaherty, eulogized as an Irish lion after his sudden and unexpected death this week, is getting a farewell fit for Thomas D'Arcy McGee.

A state funeral will be held for Flaherty this Wednesday in Toronto, the Prime Minister's Office announced Friday, a formal government send-off for the man who shepherded Canada's finances for the past eight years.

Flaherty, who died at age 64 Thursday of a reported heart attack, revelled in his Irish ancestry and was known for his ever-present green neck ties.

He'll become the latest in a tradition of Canadian state funerals that began in 1868 with McGee, an Ireland-born nationalist who became a member of Parliament and was assassinated on the streets of Ottawa after a late night of debate in the Commons.

Flaherty was only a month removed from stepping down as finance minister, a portfolio he had held since the Conservatives came to power in early 2006.

"Jim was a great friend and colleague, a dedicated family man, and an extraordinary minister of Finance who sacrificed an enormous amount in his years of service to Canada and to Canadians," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a release Friday after announcing the state funeral.

"He will be remembered with great affection and respect. Jim and his family remain in our thoughts and our prayers at this difficult time."

A book of condolences was made available Friday to the public in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill, and will be open to public expressions of remembrance until Monday.

In Toronto, the CN Tower is to be lit up in green Friday evening and again Wednesday — a humorously fitting tribute to a man who began most public speeches with a self-deprecating joke about his five-foot-three height.

Flaherty raised a family in and represented the city of Whitby, Ont., just 50 kilometres east of Toronto. His wife Christine Elliott, is a member of the provincial legislature at Queen's Park.

The last federal politician to receive a state funeral was former NDP leader Jack Layton, who died of cancer in August 2011. His funeral, too, was held in Toronto.

It is an honour normally reserved for current and former governors general, prime ministers and sitting members of cabinet — although a state funeral may be offered to any eminent Canadian at the discretion of the prime minister.

McGee, Layton, and now Flaherty, are the only three Canadians accorded a state funeral since Confederation beyond the prescribed list, according a list provided by Canadian Heritage.

To date, 15 prime ministers, eight governors general and 10 cabinet ministers have been given state funerals since McGee's in 1868.

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