04/10/2014 04:42 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Atlantic premiers remember Flaherty fondly, pay tribute to his time in finance

HALIFAX - Premiers in Atlantic Canada are remembering Jim Flaherty as a finance minister who guided Canada through difficult economic times with a political style they admired.

The Nova Scotia legislature held a moment of silence to mark Flaherty's death as Premier Stephen McNeil told the house he respected Flaherty's approach to his work, even when he was dealing with illness.

"We saw as some of his health issues appeared while he was performing his public duties that he continued to perform those public duties in a classy and forthright manner," he said.

Premier Tom Marshall of Newfoundland and Labrador expressed his shock and sadness at the news of Flaherty's death.

"I truly believe it was largely because of his steady hand on the wheel that Canada was able, not only to weather the worst global downturn in memory, but to outperform most other countries and stand tall as the paradigm of prudent fiscal management," he said in a statement. "He made Canada's example the benchmark for others to aspire to achieve."

Marshall worked with Flaherty as the province's finance minister before he became premier earlier this year.

"I greatly enjoyed our conversations," he said.

"Mr. Flaherty's work has benefited so many. His legacy is now an important and indelible part of Canadian history, and he has done his country proud."

In New Brunswick, Premier David Alward said Flaherty's time as finance minister will be felt for years to come.

"He has had a lasting impact on who we are as Canadians and the strength and resilience that we've come through the economic downturn of the last few years," he said.

"History will say that he is one of the greatest finance ministers in Canadian history. We look at going through the economic crisis globally, how the rest of the world viewed Canada because of the strength of the system. He was prepared to do what had to be done to ensure that we were going to be strong for the long term."

Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island said Flaherty brought in important social programs as finance minister, including the working income tax benefit and the registered disability savings plan.

"His contributions to this country were truly significant," he added.

Outside the Nova Scotia legislature, McNeil said Flaherty had a tough job at a difficult time and helped lead the world through economic turmoil.

"He was minister of finance through very difficult economic times and I think if you look around the globe people were looking to Canada and to Mr. Flaherty at the way he ushered the federal finances through these challenging times," he added.