Former Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty, a fixture on the world financial stage who stepped down just three weeks ago, has died. He was 64. He suffered a massive heart attack.
Flaherty, who had the job since 2006, was the longest-serving finance minister among the Group of Seven leading industrial economies until he announced he was stepping down on March 18 to return to the private sector. He battled a rare skin disease over the past year, but had said his decision to leave politics was not related.
Flaherty had been Prime Minister Stephen Harper's only finance minister since Harper took power eight years ago. He is credited with helping get Canada back on track to a balanced budget after pumping stimulus money into the economy following the 2008 financial crisis.
The House of Commons in Ottawa abruptly suspended business as word of his death circulated and the finance ministers of the G-20 paid tribute to Flaherty at the start of their meetings in Washington.
Australian Treasury Minister Joe Hockey, the current G-20 chairman, opened the group's meeting at International Monetary Fund headquarters by describing Flaherty as a "very decent man, heartfelt in his determination to deliver to Canada a better quality of life". He added: "Canada is poorer for his passing and we are all poorer."
Mark Carney, the Canadian who is the new governor of the Bank of England, said Flaherty played a key role in getting the G-20 off the ground and helping it deal with the 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath.
"He was a true believer in multilateralism and urged members to pursue the right policies and believed in fixing banks, balancing budgets and adopting sound monetary policies," Carney said.
The flag on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa was lowered to half-mast.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Flaherty was admired and respected by leaders throughout the world.
"Known for his drive and hard work, Jim was instrumental in helping Canada navigate the global financial crisis. He was also a devoted advocate for sound fiscal policy and making sure workers had the chance to retire with dignity," Lew said.
Flaherty said in February that he always spoke his mind to Harper. "I'm one of the few ministers that has always been difficult. If I don't agree with something I make my views known and he hasn't fired me yet," Flaherty said while fighting back tears in a television interview.
He is survived by his wife, Christine, and his triplet sons, John, Galen and Quinn.
Born in Lachine, Quebec, Flaherty went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a law degree from York University.
Flaherty spent 20 years in politics, including stints as minister of finance, attorney general and deputy premier at the provincial level in Ontario. In 2006, after two unsuccessful bids to lead the Ontario Conservatives, Flaherty entered federal politics.
Harper's Conservative government plans on entering an election next year with a budget surplus, and Harper has praised Flaherty for helping make that happen.