UPDATE 4-Canada's veteran finance minister quits, budget surplus in sight

Tue Mar 18, 2014 10:01pm EDT
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* Flaherty quits Cabinet, will return to private sector

* Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver reported to be successor

* Flaherty says decision not related to his rare skin disease (Updates with report of new finance minister, details)

By Louise Egan and Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, March 18 (Reuters) - Canada's Jim Flaherty, the long-serving Conservative finance minister who helped steer the economy through the global financial crisis, resigned from the cabinet on Tuesday, leaving the country on track to balance its books by 2015.

Flaherty, 64, ends the third-longest stint as finance minister in the country's history. He has been suffering acutely from a rare skin disease, though he denied his resignation had anything to do with health.

"Yesterday, I informed the Prime Minister that I am resigning from Cabinet. This was a decision I made with my family earlier this year, as I will be returning to the private sector," he said in a statement accompanied by a picture of him standing at an office door waving goodbye.

Analysts said Canada's Conservative government was likely to stick with the plan to balance the budget next year, but there was less certainty about who would succeed Flaherty and how the government would spend surpluses projected for coming years.

Canada's public broadcaster CBC reported that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver would succeed Flaherty, without citing sources. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman, Jason Macdonald, declined to comment on the report.   Continued...