UPDATE 5-Jim Flaherty dies soon after quitting as Canada's finance minister
(Adds tributes at start of G20 meeting, G7 statement)
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, April 10 (Reuters) - Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who steered Canada through the global financial crisis and then nearly eliminated the huge budget deficits he had run up in the process, died on Thursday just weeks after resigning.
His family said he passed away peacefully in Ottawa, but did not give a cause of death. An unnamed source close to the family told CBC television that Flaherty had suffered a massive heart attack. He was 64.
Canada's federal and provincial legislatures, where Flaherty had served, suspended their sessions. The flag flew at half-mast over Parliament in the capital, Ottawa.
"Today is a very sad day for me, for our government and for all of our country," Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his voice quaking, said of the friend who had stood at his side since the Conservatives took power in 2006.
"Jim will be sorely missed, not only by his friends on both sides of the House ... but he will also be missed by the countless thousands of Canadians that he devoted himself to and whom he helped during his long and successful career in public life."
Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of 20 leading economies started their meeting in Washington by paying tribute to Flaherty, an outspoken member of the group who was not shy about criticizing policies if he disagreed with them.
The smaller Group of Seven major economies said in a statement that their members "were greatly saddened" by Flaherty's passing. Flaherty was the doyen of the G7 when he stepped down. Continued...