Canada's longtime finance minister resigns


TORONTO — Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, a fixture on the world financial stage, announced his resignation today.

Flaherty, who has had the job since 2006, is the longest-serving finance minister on the Group of Seven leading industrial economies. He said he is returning to the private sector.

The 64-year-old has battled a rare skin disease over the last year but he said his decision to leave politics is not related.

Flaherty has been Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s only finance minister since Harper took power eight years ago. Harper’s Conservative government plans on entering an election next year with a budget surplus and the prime minister praised Flaherty, who said his goal was always to get Canada back on track to a balanced budget.

“My goal was always to get Canada back on track to a balanced budget after the large deficit we agreed was necessary in Budget 2009 to combat the Great Recession and protect Canadian jobs,” Flaherty said in a statement. “I followed through on that commitment. There is no doubt that Canada’s budget will be balanced in 2015. Canada’s fiscal position is the envy of the developed world.”

Canada’s commodity-rich economy avoided the worst of the 2008 financial crisis and has fared better than other nations. There was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada, and Canada’s banks are rated among the soundest in the world.

Harper said he had accepted Flaherty’s decision “with great reluctance.”

“Canada has benefited immensely from Minister Flaherty’s contributions as one of the longest serving Finance Ministers in our history,” Harper said in a statement “Since 2006, he has been a steady hand, ably guiding Canada through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression and gaining the country a solid global reputation for economic management.”

The prime minister said he would announce Flaherty’s replacement in the coming days.

The group of seven nations includes the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan, France, Italy and Canada.

World leaders have noticed Canada’s economic record in recent years: President Barack Obama once said the U.S. should take note of Canada’s banking system, and Britain’s Treasury chief said Britain looked to emulate the Ottawa way on cutting deficits.

The Conservative Party government of Harper that took over from former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberals in 2006 broadly stuck to his predecessor’s approach, though Flaherty cut taxes and, when recession struck, pumped stimulus money into the economy.