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Rob Ford: I can't thank Jim Flaherty enough for his loyalty and friendship

TORONTO - An emotional Rob Ford, who saw Jim Flaherty stand up for him during his darkest hours, says he can never thank him enough for his friendship and loyalty.

Chocking back tears, Toronto's troubled mayor described the former finance minister, who died earlier today, as a "relentless fighter and champion of the people."

Flaherty was a close friend of the Ford family, going back to his time in the Ontario legislature with the mayor's father, Doug Ford Sr.

But it was Flaherty who nearly came to tears last November amid turmoil at Toronto city hall over allegations that Ford had smoked crack cocaine, saying it was up to Ford to decide if he wanted to seek help.

The mayor, who is still embroiled in the scandal, says Flaherty was an honourable man who dedicated his life to his family and to public service.

He says Canada would not be where it is today without Flaherty's leadership during the most difficult of financial times.

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are also reeling from their former colleague's sudden, unexpected death.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says the loss is even more profound as Flaherty's wife, health critic Christine Elliott, is a member of their Tory family.

Hudak nearly came to tears as he spoke of the man he called his hero and a legend in politics who was one of the greatest finance ministers in Canada's history.

The Opposition leader says he's heartbroken that Flaherty died without him being able to say goodbye.

Former Conservative premier Ernie Eves says Flaherty's leadership during the dark days of the global recession made Canada an example to the rest of the world.

He says Flaherty was a humble and hard-working man who was probably one of the best finance ministers Canada has ever had.

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