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By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B.

In an  interview with the Winnipeg Jewish Review, following his address to high school students at the Gray Academy on January 10, Canada’s Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty said “We [Canada] are likely to have the best economic growth of the G7 countries…When you look at the United States and others you realize how much better we are [economically] than them… ”  

Flaherty, who is a Governor of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund noted that Canada’s Banks and insurance companies, including Great West Life were in  very solid positions. Referring to himself as a “fiscal conservative”, and as someone who does not like “to run deficits”, Flaherty said “We are running a relatively large deficit, but we need to do it for the next year or two, to spur economic growth.” He noted that the government is spending “almost 6 billion more dollars than it did before.” 

In his address at the Gray Academy, Flaherty, who graduated from Princeton University cum laude and then graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School, said that a year ago was “a very rocky time”, for the global economy. But, he said, regarding Canada’s economic recovery “I think we’ll see improvement in 2010 and 2011 will be even better.” He added we “can have some comfort” that Canada’s recovery is occurring.

When asked by a student about whether Prime Minister Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament would affect the economy, Flaherty said it wouldn’t, and what matters is “consumer confidence.” He suggested “Because we won’t sit, I’ll be able to do more pre-budget consultation” and go around the country listening to others’ ideas.

“A lot of good ideas come from listening,” he said.

Flaherty noted that with the higher Canadian dollar, and weaker U.S dollar, in “the short-term it’s very difficult for exporters,” but over the longer term businesses can adjust to the change.  He said what concerns businesses is currency volatility. He noted that the higher Canadian currency is a good thing for “those who want to buy more modern machinery” in upgrading their businesses.

According to Flaherty, the overall challenge globally is that the U.S. currency is under a “lot of pressure due to the large U.S. deficit.”

When asked by a student how “Obama’s Buy America” plan will affect Canada, Flaherty responded that “For elected people it’s easy to succumb to protectionist sentiment because it is popular.” After noting that President Obama was under a lot of pressure, Flaherty said “We have a NAFTA agreement with the U.S and Mexico and we expect compliance.”

He also said that in his view protectionism is very “short-sighted” for economic well-being.

Flaherty, who has “ three 18 year old sons”, also mentioned that he thought that the Canadian Human Rights Museum would be a good thing for  Winnipeg, and  great for our country “as a show case for what we’ve done for human rights.”

When asked by a student about his views on Iran, Flaherty said, “The Prime minister has been very clear that we view the build up of tools of aggression against Israel as unacceptable.”

Flaherty,  who has been to Israel twice, most recently in 2008, said in an interview with the Winnipeg Jewish Review that “We are all as a government in support of the security of Israel.  The Prime Minister has been very clear about the threat that Iran poses.”

He noted that on his 2008 trip to Israel, he saw some of the “technological advances” in the country, “in life sciences in particular.”

At that time, Flaherty said he went to Ramallah to meet with PA officials, and then travelled to Jordan. He said he saw “some signs of economic development” in Ramallah.

Flaherty said that, “Canada’s trade with Jordan isn’t large but it is growing.’

He also said he met with Jordan’s Queen Rania who was previously the head of an NGO that has participated in programs through the G7 “to help get vaccines to the poorest countries.”

In regard to trade between Israel and Canada, Flaherty said “It’s growing.”

During his visit to Winnipeg, Flaherty did not visit any other schools aside from the Gray Academy.


Following his address, Flaherty, was taken on a tour by Bob Freedman, CEO of the  Jewish Federation, and  Ben Cohen,  President of the Jewish Federation at the Asper Campus.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.