Jim Flaherty, Canada's former finance minister of eight years, was remembered on Thursday in the Nova Scotia legislature with a moment of silence as politicians from all stripes shared their condolences.

Flaherty, who resigned last month as federal finance minister, died of an apparent heart attack Thursday at age 64. He leaves behind his wife, Ontario MPP Christine Elliott and three triplet sons, John, Galen and Quinn.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Flaherty continued to perform his public service in a way that was "classy and forthright" despite his health issues.

Stephen McNeil

Premier Stephen McNeil led a moment of silence for former finance minister Jim Flaherty at the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday. (CBC)

"He just excited public life," McNeil told reporters outside the legislature. "All of a sudden we hear this very sad news and we all thought he'd be entering into his retirement years."

Despite political differences, McNeil said Flaherty ushered federal finances through challenging times.

"Anytime someone is able to take on a portfolio the size of the national Finance Department, to do it in such an eloquent way, I think we all need to admire him."

Others remembered Flaherty for his commitment to public service, his playful sense of humour and his devotion to his family.

"This is a time to remember that political leaders are also people," said Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie. "Mr. Flaherty was a warm and friendly and generous person, a father and husband who put many parts of his life ahead of his job."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty bids farewell

Former finance minister Jim Flaherty resigned from cabinet in mid-March, sending a news release with a photo of him waving farewell to make the announcement. (Handout photo)

Flaherty served for many years in Ontario's legislature before moving to the House of Commons in Ottawa. The Conservative MP, who had battled health problems, had stepped down from cabinet less than a month ago citing a plan to return to the private sector.

"I know Canadians will remember Mr. Flaherty for his public work as a long-time finance minister who helped guide our country through a very difficult economic time, a minister who introduced important initiatives like the tax-free savings account that so many thousands of Canadian families take advantage of today," said Baillie.