May 28, 2013 / 3:14 PM / in 5 years

Canada finance minister keen to stay as cabinet shuffle looms

OTTAWA, May 28 (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has no plans to quit and has received no indication that his job is in jeopardy ahead of a cabinet reshuffling, his chief spokesman said on Tuesday.

Flaherty’s poor health - he suffers from a rare skin disease - has fueled speculation in recent months that he would step down. But Dan Miles, his director of communications, said he was feeling much better these days.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to revamp his cabinet by July, but “if Jim Flaherty has anything to say about it, finance is not in play,” Miles told Reuters.

Miles said he and Flaherty discussed the minister’s plans over lunch on Saturday and that he wanted to pre-empt any media reports that Flaherty wanted to retire.

“I’ve spoken to him directly, and he’s telling me he has no plans to leave,” said Miles.

Flaherty has said publicly on numerous occasions that he intends to remain finance minister until the federal government eliminates its budget deficit, a goal set for 2015, ahead of the next election.

The ultimate decision is, of course, up to Harper.

“If the prime minister decided ultimately that he wants to make a change, that’s his prerogative,” said Miles. “But at this point, there’s nothing to suggest that there’s going to be a change.”

Harper’s office was not immediately available to comment.

Harper is under pressure to freshen up his team and policies as he faces scandals and a re-energized opposition. He said last year that he planned big cabinet changes in mid-2013, and an aide has said that plan remains on track.

Flaherty, 63, has held his position since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 and has been in Harper’s cabinet longer than any other minister.

He said in January that he has a rare condition called bullous pemphigoid and that the steroids he takes made him appear bloated and red-faced. But he said then that he could still perform his duties.

“He’s still dealing with that issue,” said Miles, “but he seems to be feeling much better and he’s invigorated.”

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