“I’m going to miss him as a friend," says Wes Sheridan

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Former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty dies at age 64

Politicians in Prince Edward Island are reacting with shock to the news of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty's sudden death this afternoon.

News of his death began circulating on social media just as question period in the P.E.I. legislature was ending.

P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan described it like a kick to the stomach.

“I’m going to miss him as a friend, it’s tough,” Sheridan said.

“Seven years, shy a couple of months, that we shared a table, shared an awful lot of comments and thoughts and talks and we kind of hit it off from the first day that we ever met together, our backgrounds are similar and our viewpoints are very, very alike.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE AS G20 MINISTERS PAY TRIBUTE TO JIM FLAHERTY

Flaherty died suddenly on Thursday, less than a month after quitting the cabinet.

His family said he died peacefully.

The P.E.I. legislature held a moment of silence for Flaherty this afternoon.

Federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea, was in Ottawa when news of his death was confirmed.

She said she heard about his passing with great sadness

“He was not just a colleague but also a friend,” Shea said in a statement to The Guardian.

“I remember how helpful he was when I came up to Ottawa and for that, I'm forever grateful. He was a strong ally on several files that are important to Prince Edward Island.

Jim Flaherty was kind, caring, passionate and highly competent. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones."

A statement was issued on behalf of Christine Elliott and her triplet sons, John, Galen and Quinn.

“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 statement said.

The House of Commons abruptly suspended its sitting before question period began as word of the death spread. Opposition MPs flooded across the aisle to offer condolences to Flaherty’s colleagues.

“I remember how helpful he was when I came up to Ottawa and for that, I'm forever grateful. He was a strong ally on several files that are important to Prince Edward Island," Federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea

The Ontario legislature also held a moment’s silence for Flaherty and then took a recess.

Former Liberal MP Bob Rae tweeted: “Saddened to hear that Jim Flahaerty has died. He was a tenacious, effective and dedicated politician who reached across the aisle.”

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said she was shocked to hear the news.

“That’s a real loss for our country,” she said.

“Jim Flaherty returned our country to a balanced budget. I can tell you from experience, that’s really hard to do, it takes a lot of tough decisions. He was man of character, that’s a terrible loss for Canada.”

Earlier, emergency vehicles were seen parked in front of Flaherty’s downtown Ottawa condo building.

Until his unexpected departure in mid-March, Flaherty was the Harper government’s first and only finance minister.

He got the job in 2006 and held it through cabinet shuffles, economic turmoil and a bout with a rare skin disease that had him on steroids.

The condition was not thought to be life-threatening at the time.

Flaherty began his political career at the provincial level, serving in a variety of cabinet portfolios in Ontario before making the jump to the Commons.

He became an MP in 2006 as Prime Minister Stephen Harper formed his first government. Flaherty 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.

 

 

... More to come, full details in the print and e-editions of The Guardian tomorrow.

 

 

Geographic location: OTTAWA

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