Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during a TV interview after tabling the budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. Justin Tang/Canadian Press
Jim Flaherty was nearly shuffled out of his role as finance minister in 2007 as Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to beef up the industry minister position, according to a new book by one of Harper's former advisers.
Bruce Carson, who left the Prime Minister's Office in 2009, says the plan fell apart when Flaherty refused to move.
"But a funny thing happened on the way to do the shuffle," Carson writes in 14 Days: Making the Conservative movement in Canada.
"He told the PM... that he was owed one more budget, and if he was not going to be finance minister, he did not want any other portfolio. He then walked out of 24 Sussex, got into his car, and began the drive to Whitby [Flaherty's hometown, just outside of Toronto]."
Flaherty ended up serving as finance minister nearly the entire time Harper has been prime minister. He resigned from cabinet in March, later dying of an apparent heart attack.
Carson says Harper "believed that Flaherty had done a good job with two budgets and could handle the Industry portfolio."
Didn't want to lose Flaherty
Harper ended up moving Jim Prentice, who was then minister of Indian affairs, to Industry. Prentice eventually left politics and took an executive position at CIBC, but is now running for the Alberta PC leadership.
Prentice, Carson writes, "was proving to be among the most solid of ministers." The changes together "would give this government front bench strength on economic issues."
Flaherty was the first minister Harper and then chief of staff Ian Brodie met with that day, according to the book. Carson says that he, Harper and Brodie, discussed Flaherty's threat, which they didn't believe to be idle.
"The PM softened his view about moving Flaherty. He did not want to create a crisis of confidence within his own government, it being a minority. He also did not want to lose Flaherty from the Cabinet table."
Flaherty stayed at Finance, and Prentice moved into Industry Canada in the August 2007 cabinet shuffle.
'Delighted to accept'
Prentice suggested Wednesday he had no idea about the plan.
"I have not read the book. I can't really comment. The only discussions I had with the prime minister at the time were that I would be the minister of industry, which I was delighted to accept," Prentice told Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
Prentice said Flaherty was the country's finest finance minister and had passion for Canada.
Carson's book, which was just released, is one of the rare insider looks at the Harper PMO.
Carson has had his share of trouble since leaving that PMO: he faces charges of illegal lobbying and influence peddling stemming from his work afterward.
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