By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Former Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, 64, died on Thursday, just weeks after stepping down following eight years in his post.
His family said in a statement that he died peacefully in Ottawa, but did not mention the cause of his death. An unnamed source close to the family told CBC television the cause was a massive heart attack.
The House of Commons suspended its session until Friday after the government confirmed Flaherty's death, spokeswoman Heather Bradley said.
"Jim Flaherty was an extremely dedicated public servant," opposition New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters outside the House, choking back tears. "He's a good person."
Flaherty had been suffering acutely from a rare skin disease, but at the time of his resignation in March denied that the decision had anything to do with his health.
The Conservative politician, Canada's third longest-serving finance minister, helped steer the economy through the global financial crisis, leaving the country on track to balance its books by 2015.
He was replaced on March 19 by then-Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, currently in Washington for a meeting of international finance officials.
Flaherty had planned to take some time off after the grueling schedule required of a Group of Seven finance minister, and was expected to eventually take on a role in the private sector.
Flaherty introduced tax cuts after the Conservatives took power in 2006 and then ran up Canada's largest budget deficit in nominal dollar terms to counter the Great Recession.
(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Bernadette Baum and Mohammad Zargham)