Players of all stripes gather for fond farewell to Jim Flaherty

TORONTO - Canada's political elite gather today 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 is being 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.

Flaherty's death, which came less than a month after his retirement, sent shockwaves 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 the Abilities Centre in Whitby, Ont., 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 MP 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.

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