Canada's finance minister undecided on 2015 run amid health issues

Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:20pm EST
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By Louise Egan

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has not yet decided whether to run for office again in the 2015 general election, he told Reuters on Tuesday, amid speculation he may step down before then to attend to health issues.

"We'll see. I haven't decided," Flaherty said in an interview when asked to confirm his intentions.

He answered "yes" at a November 13 news conference when asked whether he would run for re-election in October 2015 in the southern Ontario district he represents.

Flaherty suffers from a rare but non-fatal skin disease that causes blisters and is usually managed with powerful steroid medication.

He had long been one of the most vocal cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government and gave frequent speeches to promote the government's agenda. Since going public with his condition over a year ago, he has sharply scaled back his activities and travel.

He made an exception to attend the meeting in Sydney last week of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors and was in Melbourne on Tuesday for a business forum.

Flaherty, 64, has vowed to stay on the job until he eliminates the country's budget deficit, and he repeated on Tuesday that he expects to achieve that without difficulty next year well before Canadians go to the polls.

In remarks to a business audience on Tuesday, Flaherty, a veteran of G20 meetings, urged his colleagues to focus on balanced budgets. Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey, an ideological ally, described him as a voice of fiscal conservatism and a "a fantastic spine stiffener" within the group for questioning any talk of more taxes or regulation.   Continued...

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie