Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, has died. He was 64.
Emergency crews were called to Flaherty’s Ottawa condo earlier today, not a month after he resigned from his post on Mar. 18. He had served as Canada’s finance minister since 2006, and was Harper’s first and only finance minister up until Joe Oliver took over last month.
The House of Commons suspended its sitting after 2 p.m. for the remainder of the day. An hour later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a brief speech. “Today is a very sad day for me, for my government and our country,” Harper said. “This comes as an unexpected and a terrible shock.”
While Flaherty said his decision to leave politics last month for the private sector was not health-related, he had been battling a rare skin disease, the first reports of which emerged last January. It is not yet known whether his disease is related to his death, although CBC is reporting that he may have died of a heart attack.
The following statement was released by Flaherty’s family:
Christine Elliott and her triplet sons, John, Galen and Quinn would like to make Canadians aware that her 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.
And here’s an excerpt from James Cowan’s article remembering Flaherty, which can be read in full here:
Like Layton, who died shortly after an unprecedented electoral success, Flaherty died too soon after a landmark success. As Finance Minister, Flaherty steered the Canadian economy through a global recession with determination. He left when a return to a balanced budget seemed certain. But what is equally striking is how much joy he took in his job. In an era of petty politics and cabinet ministers who put their principles second to their allegiances, Flaherty drew strength—even joy—from doing what he felt was right.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was emotional when he spoke to reporters on Parliament Hill. He also offered his condolences on Twitter:
Catherine and I offer our most sincere condolences to Jim Flaherty’s loved ones and colleagues in this difficult time.http://t.co/9YAHma1Sq3
— Thomas Mulcair (@ThomasMulcair) April 10, 2014
As did Flaherty’s long-time friend, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford:
Devastated to hear news of my friend Jim Flaherty passing. My prayers go out to Christine Elliot & family. The Ford family is heart broken
— Mayor Rob Ford (@TOMayorFord) April 10, 2014