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Former finance minister Jim Flaherty dies at age 64

OTTAWA (NEWS1130) – Former finance minister Jim Flaherty has died.

Paramedics showed up at his Ottawa home earlier today and found him in grave condition.

Flaherty served as finance minister from 2006 until his resignation on March 18, 2014. He denied his health played a role in his resignation.

Over the last year, Flaherty has suffered from a rare but treatable skin disorder.

There are reports he died of a heart attack, but the cause of his death has not been confirmed.

Flaherty was born in 1949 in Lachine, Que.  He began his political career at the provincial level, serving in a variety of cabinet portfolios in Ontario before making the jump to Ottawa. Most recently, he was MP for Whitby-Oshawa.

Flaherty’s family said in a statement that he died peacefully.

Ottawa police said a police investigation would be conducted because the death occurred outside a medical institution.

The House of Commons was suspended in the wake of the news and politicians and Canadians took to social media to pay tribute to one of the country’s longest-serving finance ministers who many, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, credited with steering Canada out of the worst financial times since the Great Depression.

Wynne said it was a sad day at Queen’s Park where she and Flaherty were colleagues in the early 2000s.

“He was a feisty articulate spirit in this place.”

The Ontario legislature, where Flaherty sat for a decade, held a moment’s silence for him and recessed.

Flaherty was a colourful, jocular man with a penchant for self-deprecating humour and witty banter that took the edge off some of his political jibes.

He became an MP in 2006 as Harper formed his first government and became finance minister.

As minister, he presided over a series of tax cuts and then ran huge deficits as recession swept the world in 2009.

But he vowed the he would staunch the flow of red ink and get the budget balanced by the next election in 2015.

His last budget, delivered shortly before his resignation, put him within easy reach of balance. But he died before the budget could turn to surplus.

This was the last tweet sent from his Twitter account:

Statement from Flaherty’s family:

Christine Elliott and her triplet sons, John, Galen and Quinn would like to make Canadians aware that [their] beloved husband and father passed away peacefully today in Ottawa.

We appreciate that he was so well supported in his public life by Canadians from coast to coast to coast and by his international colleagues.

The family asks for privacy at this time.

Flaherty remembered:

SFU Economist Richard Harris says Flaherty was a very capable and dedicated finance minister, guiding our country through the 2008 recession. “Canada’s fiscal policy record during that period was excellent. Certainly, he deserved a great deal of credit for that.”

“I think he will be regarded as one of our very good finance ministers; he’ll go down in the history books,” adds Harris.

The BC Chamber of Commerce is in shock over the news of Flaherty’s passing. President John Winter says Flaherty didn’t just take charge of the country’s finances; he also made significant contributions to BC.

“Over the course of his tenure as finance minister, he was a party to significant amount of investment in British Columbia’s infrastructure, starting with Asia-Pacific Gateway and working through things like the Olympics and other things that brought a great deal of prominence to British Columbia.”

Winter says while practicing a great deal of restraint on a national and federal level, he was also able to make considerable funds available for our infrastructure needs.

BC Premier Christy Clark says she was shocked and saddened to hear the news of Flaherty’s death

“This is a terrible loss for our country. Jim was a great leader and Canadian. He served with distinction in both provincial and federal politics, and made a difference in both. Under his watch, Canada returned to stability and balanced budgets,” she says in a statement.

“And while his achievements in Toronto and Ottawa will stand the test of time, perhaps his most important legacy was as a family man. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Christine and their three sons,” she adds.

Messages have been pouring out over Twitter, with many talking about Flaherty’s passion for serving the public.

Flahrety was 64.