Thursday, April 11 Commentary

Posted By: Dave Agar · 4/11/2014 12:00:00 AM

It's been just over 18 hours since former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty collapsed and died in his condo in the Byward Market area of Ottawa and the sadness at his loss is palpable on Parliament Hill, at Queen's Park...in Whitby and beyond.

In the House of Commons today, it is expected that Question Period will be suspended to give MP's on both sides of the House the opportunity to pay tribute to the 64-year old who stepped away from cabinet just 3 weeks ago.  The MP's are likely to wear green in his honour.

As the various politicians made their statements yesterday, it struck me that Mayor Rob Ford was as upset as I have ever seen him.

I'll have more to say about Jim Flaherty in a few minutes.


By now you've likely heard that temporarily you cannot file your income tax return online.  The Canada Revenue Agency shut down the site earlier this week when the word spread like wildfire around the globe that the most widely used open source encryption technology is vulnerable to hackers and has been for two years.   This is the technology that appears in the address bar on your computer as a small icon of a lock and the letters "https".   

Last night the federal government sent an advisory to all of its departments that if they use this encryption technology to block public access until an assessment is made about whether there is vulnerability.  I just went on the Service Canada website and walked through to the application form for getting benefits from the Canada Pension Plan.  Nothing blocked my way but don't be surprised if you get hung up on a federal site over the next few days.

On News and Views yesterday I chastised a number of Canadian companies for publicly declaring that no hackers had hit their systems because the experts say there is simply no way to tell when exploiting this so-called "heartbleed" bug.   Included in the group I included our chartered banks.   Since then I have had a number of emails from IT people who say I was wrong about the banks because they use entirely different encryption systems.  They don't use open source encryption or OpenSSL because, well, because is open source and not as a secure as the banks required.  So I made a mistake.  My apologies to the banks.  That is not to say their systems cannot be hacked...just that they don't use the system that is currently causing so much angst.

The other thing you need to know about "heartbleed" is that this vulnerability seems to extend beyond 2-thirds of the websites on the internet to also include some email systems, some security firewalls, some personal computers and their is even a claim that if you have an Android system operating your cellphone you could be vulnerable.  In particular the Jelly Bean version of Android or 4.1.1.

Recommendation remains the same...change your passwords, all of them.


The lawyer for accused serial killer Dellen Millard says his client will plead not guilty to all counts against him.

Millard has been serving time awaiting trial on an accusation that he murdered Tim Bosma and incinerated the body.  Yesterday police charged him with murdering Millard's ex girlfriend Laura Babcock and killing his own father Wayne.


A parents nightmare in northern California at dinner time.

A bus carrying high school students to a tour of Humboldt State University and a Fed-Ex tractor-trailer crashed head-on.  So far, 10 dead, 34 injured.

It happened on Interstate 5 which is the main highway that runs right up the centre of California...north to south.

The big rig drove through the oleander bush that filled the median...crossed into the oncoming bus.


Friendly. Funny. Formidable. Forthright.  That was Jim Flaherty.  Jimmy to close friends.  After decades in provincial and federal politics, and years of political wars his friends are legion from all political stripes.  

That Irish smile.  His funny quips in the midst of being a partisan pitbull.  This was a very decent, down-to-earth man just as interested in talking hockey as he was about finance or politics.  He loved parties and a pint or two along the way.  He was looking forward to more time on the golf course.

There are few politicians who rise above the level of disdain from the public.  Not him. Not Jim.  Flaherty's reputation rose to lofty heights at home and around the world because this was a man who gave a damn.  A man who thought he could make a difference.  Jim, you succeeded.  

We mourn his passing but let us all celebrate his life.  He'll be right there with us, that Irish smile, hoisting a pint or two.

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