Mayor Rob Ford says he is "devastated" to learn of the death of former finance minister and Toronto-area politician Jim Flaherty.

Flaherty died suddenly Thursday at the age of 64. His family said he died peacefully.

"It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that I say goodbye to a very special friend,” said Ford at a press conference, fighting back tears. “We love you, Jim. We’ll miss you.”

With his brother Doug at his side, Ford paid tribute to the former MP's role in guiding Canada through the financial crisis.

"Canada would not be where it is today without Jim Flaherty," said Ford. 

The flags at City Hall flew at half-mast. In Ottawa, the House of Commons suspended its sitting before question period, after news of Flaherty’s death began to spread.

Scarborough Subway 20130923

Jim Flaherty and Mayor Rob Ford were photographed together last September at a subway funding announcement. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

On Thursday afternoon, Ford tweeted that his prayers go out to Flaherty’s wife, Christine Elliott, and their family.

"The Ford family is heartbroken," the mayor’s tweet said.

Flaherty had served as the MP for Whitby-Oshawa since January of 2006. Until last month, he had been the only finance minister to serve under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Before making the leap to federal politics, Flaherty spent 10 years as an MPP in the Ontario legislature. He held several cabinet posts under premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

Ford's father, Doug Ford Sr., served in the provincial legislature with Flaherty.

When Flaherty announced his resignation from cabinet last month, Ford said that Canada was losing its "best finance minister ever."

That day, Ford also expressed concern about the health problems Flaherty had been battling.

The mayor also said that day that Flaherty had stuck by him "through thick and thin."

Ontario politicians send condolences

At least a dozen other members of Toronto City Council tweeted their own tributes and to Flaherty and messages of condolences to this family on Thursday.

Coun. James Pasternak called Flaherty a "great Canadian and parliamentarian."

Coun. Mark Grimes said that Flaherty was a "great minister and greater man."

At Queen’s Park, party leaders and members also paid tribute to Flaherty.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak called Flaherty "a hero," someone who had been a mentor to him, as well as a friend. 

Premier Kathleen Wynne said that Flaherty “was a determined servant of the people” who worked hard to represent the people who elected him.

Dozens of members of the legislature tweeted messages of condolences in the wake of Flaherty's death on Thursday.

Harris, the former premier, told the CBC's Evan Solomon that he had spoken with Flaherty the day before he died.

"We talked about life after politics, about business opportunities, about family, about being able to spend more time doing what you wanted to do. He was very, very much looking forward to it," said Harris.

"I think he’d felt satisfied that he’d accomplished what he could in the political arena, he was at peace with his decision to move on and really looking forward to it."

With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Genevieve Tomney