Australian ally and long-standing Canadian finance minister dies

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The Canadian House of Commons had to abruptly suspend its sitting, many members weeping, as the sad news of the much-loved former finance minister’s death spread around the room.

Jim Flaherty, one of Canada’s longest standing finance ministers known for his characteristic green neckties to celebrate his Irish roots, died suddenly yesterday of what is reported to be a heart attack.

He was 64.

It comes just a month after his unexpected resignation as finance minister – although he had been battling a rare skin condition, he insisted at the time that was not the reason for his departure, reported National Post.

He had been the only finance minister to serve in Harper’s cabinet since 2006, when the Conservative government came to power.

In February Flaherty was in Australia for the Australia-Canada economic leadership forum, where he praised Australia as a major trading partner and valuable ally.

While here, he also encouraged other countries to follow Australia and Canada’s examples of responsible economic leadership and fiscal management.

During Flaherty’s eight-year tenure in Canada he single-handedly implemented one of the most far-reaching episodes of Canadian government stimulus since World War II, relying on spending and state guarantees to the banking system to grow the economy, Bloomberg reported.

In inflation-adjusted terms, Canada’s economy outperformed the G-7 average in all but one year under Flaherty.

“He was just instrumental in helping to build and sustain one of the world’s best economies for a long time,” said Chuck Jeannes, CEO of Goldcorp Inc., the world’s second-largest gold producer. “As an American and watching for the last 10 years what’s gone on in Canada, I was just terribly impressed with minister Flaherty and the success that he had in managing through the financial crisis.”

Flaherty - born in Lachine, Que. - attended Princeton University and Osgoode Hall at Toronto's York University. He worked as a lawyer for 20 years before entering politics. He served as Ontario MPP from 1995 to 2005, and also held posts as deputy premier, attorney general and minister of labour.

He is survived by his wife Christine Elliott and his triplet sons.

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