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‘We’ll miss you’: Rob Ford mourns family friend Jim Flaherty

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford was visibly upset while speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon soon after the death of his family friend, Jim Flaherty.

“It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that I say goodbye to a very special friend. We love you, Jim. We’ll miss you,” he said.

Flanked by his brother Doug, he remembered Flaherty as a “relentless fighter and a champion of the people.”

“I can never thank him enough for his friendship and his loyalty through the years. He was an honourable man, husband and father and politician who dedicated his life to his family and to the Canadian public service,” Ford said.

Ford and Flaherty have been long-time family friends. Flaherty served with Doug Ford Sr., Rob’s father, while a member of provincial parliament at Queen’s Park.

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Watch video: Politicians at Queen’s Park remember Jim Flaherty. Alan Carter reports. 

Flaherty choked back tears in November when asked about the mayor’s ongoing scandal.

When Flaherty retired last month, Ford dubbed him Canada’s “best finance minister ever.”

Flaherty died in Ottawa Thursday.  He was 64.

Progressive conservative leader Tim hudak worked on Flaherty’s leadership campaign and said Thursday he was “heartbroken” by the news of his friend’s passing.

“He had a steady hand at the wheel for some very turbulent times for Canada. The sad thing is you don’t get to say that. You never know when time is going to run out, shake his hand, say thanks, directly.

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“The sad reality is, he’s gone. I never had the chance to say… I never had a chance to say goodbye, and thanks.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Flaherty’s death marked a “sad day at Queen’s Park.”

“It is with deep sadness that I learned that Jim Flaherty has passed away and I would say, really, all of Queen’s Park is in shock,” Wynne said. “He was a feisty, articulate spirit in [the Ontario legislature].”

The Canadian flag outside of City Hall was lowered to half-mast soon after the announcement of Flaherty’s death.

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Condolences from city hall poured in quickly from councillors and mayoral candidates alike.

Councillor Karen Stintz issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying Flaherty’s “contribution to public life at both the provincial and federal level was remarkable.”

Olivia Chow described Flaherty as “passionate” about Toronto and the GTA.

“My condolence and thoughts and prayers to his family,” she said. “He passionately loved the GTA. So he will be really missed. … When you have a partnership where a husband and wife are both in politics, there’s a special bond there. So Christine must be having a really hard time so I just – I wish her strength.”

Mayoral candidate and former Tory MPP John Tory described Flaherty in a statement as a “thoughtful, intelligent, and an incredibly sensitive man.”

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“This is a huge loss for the Flaherty and Elliott family and for all Canadians.”