Canada's political elite gathered to pay their final respects to Jim Flaherty, the former finance minister whose sudden death last week spurred an outpouring of grief that has stretched across the country and across party lines.
A state funeral was held at Toronto's downtown St. James Cathedral for Flaherty, 64, who died of a heart attack in his Ottawa condo despite frantic efforts by a cabinet colleague to resuscitate him.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen attended, as did Gov. Gen. David Johnston. The entire federal Conservative caucus was invited, as well as all current provincial premiers and finance ministers, as well as living former prime ministers and governors general.
Large white tents were erected on the lawn of the cathedral and technicians were hurrying the final preparations for the live broadcast of the service.
Across the street from the church, a phalanx of TV cameras awaited the arrival of family, friends and dignitaries.
Onlookers began gathering several hours before the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET. One man had his patriotism on full display, wearing a white jacket adorned with a red maple leaf and clutching a Canadian flag.
The ceremonial route of the casket, scheduled to begin in nearby Whitby, Ont., just before 2 p.m. ET, will wind its way along Highway 401, down the Don Valley Parkway and through downtown Toronto before arriving at the church at 2:50 p.m. ET.
Flaherty's death, which came less than a month after his retirement as minister, sent shock waves through the national capital, where flags have been flying at half-mast and the Peace Tower has been bathed in green light, a tribute to his Irish heritage.
Hundreds of dignitaries and citizens lined up to pay their respects Tuesday at Whitby's Abilities Centre, which caters to the disabled and able-bodied alike. Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived late in the day for a private viewing.
Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, a Flaherty confidante who rushed to his condo in an attempt to revive her friend and had dinner with him on the eve of his death, also paid her respects. An emotional Leitch blew a kiss to his casket.
Harper will speak at the funeral in front of a crowd that will include NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and several federal cabinet ministers.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Mark Carney, the former Bank of Canada governor who now heads the Bank of England, will also be on hand at the funeral, which is taking place under tight security just blocks from Toronto's famed financial district, a favourite Flaherty stomping ground.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, whose friendship with Flaherty caused the diminutive finance minister some uncomfortable moments in the media spotlight last year, is also expected to attend. Ford and his brother, Doug, also paid their respects in Whitby on Tuesday.
Mourners filed into a low-lit room in the city east of Toronto, where Flaherty's Maple Leaf-draped casket lay between two Mounties in ceremonial dress. Flaherty's widow, Ontario MPP Christine Elliott, and the couple's triplet sons stood on one side as Irish tunes played softly from speakers.
Flaherty's state funeral is the first such honour since 2011, when former NDP leader Jack Layton was laid to rest. State funerals are customarily only given to current or former prime ministers, governors general, sitting cabinet ministers or members of the Royal Family.
Toronto Police are reminding motorists to expect traffic delays and congestion in and around the area of King and Church Streets on Wednesday.
St. James Anglican Church on King Street East is the site of the state funeral for former Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at 3:00pm.
At 9am, King Street East will be closed to traffic between Jarvis Street and Church Street.
Streetcars will continue to run until 10am, after which they will be diverted.
At 10 a.m., the following full road closures will be implemented:
- Adelaide Street East, between Church Street and Jarvis Street
- Church Street, between King Street East and Adelaide Street East
- Jarvis Street, southbound, between Adelaide Street East and King Street East
There will also be the funeral procession from Whitby to the Church starting just before 2:00pm and the procession after the service.
Hundreds are expected to attend the funeral.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in attendance and will deliver a eulogy to his longtime co-worker and friend.
Flaherty died suddenly last Thursday at the age of 64.
Governor General David Johnston, all living former Prime Ministers, the entire federal conservative caucus, every MPP in the Ontario legislature and Toronto mayor Rob Ford are some of the dignitaries that were invited.