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Today, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is meeting with provincial ministers of finance in Saskatoon.


Why is this man still at the helm of financial policy making in Ottawa?



This is the finance minister who earlier this year said publicly that he could see little reason why companies would choose to invest in Ontario. His cure for everything, including the massive problems of the auto industry, has been corporate tax cuts. His beef with Queen's Park was that the Ontario government wasn't slashing corporate taxes the way Flaherty thought they should.



Just under two months ago, on October 23, here is Jim Flaherty speaking in Calgary:



"Our economic fundamentals are the strongest in the G7. I'm proud to serve as the Finance Minister and travel abroad and meet with my G7 colleagues. I was speaking with one of them this morning on the phone in Europe. Our economic fundamentals are the envy of the G7. We run balanced budgets here.....As I say, other nations are envious of our situation."



Here is how Flaherty concluded his speech:



"Let me conclude by repeating that our economy has solid economic fundamentals, and Canadians can take some pride in that. I can assure you that our budget will remain balanced. We do have the strongest economic fundamentals in the G7. I can also assure you that our spending will be controlled."



"Let me end with three good reasons to be optimistic about Canada and our economy. Our economy is strong. Our government is focused with strong leadership by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. And our country is united. My friends, we have a brilliant future together and I thank you for the invitation to be with you today."



Remember, this speech was delivered after the election---Flaherty was not trolling for votes. This self-centred, smug, bone-headed view of things is what the man actually thought a few weeks ago. He likely still thinks this heap of bromides makes sense.



Even John McCain and Sarah Palin weren't saying things as dumb as this about the economy in late October.



Then came Flaherty's Economic Statement on November 27, a document that has been amply analysed for its economics and its politics as dumber than a bag full of hammers (an expression beloved in the Maritimes).



Any competent government on earth by now would have fired a finance minister with a record as dismal as that of Jim Flaherty. No one trusts him. When he tells the media, as he did today, that he wants to work "collaboratively" with provincial finance ministers, it doesn't pass the giggle test.



Nothing more clearly reveals the ingrained stubborness of the Harper government than the fact that it has not turfed out this incompetent minister.



Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff ought to pay careful attention to this. He has to decide by late January whether to vote confidence in the Harper government. That vote may come on the new Speech from the Throne or on the Budget. Before choosing to throw in his lot with the "Harper Team," he ought to ponder what it means that next to the prime minister, Jim Flaherty has been kept on as the number two man on that team.

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