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Finance Minisgter Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, March 19, 2013.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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There has been a great deal of speculation that Thursday's budget will be Jim Flaherty's last. Let's try to separate what we know from what people are just guessing.

We know the Finance Minister has been looking back more than forward of late. People who have been with him in recent months note that he is a bit more nostalgic than he once was. This is merely an impression, but it's an impression that a number of people have independently observed, and it has also manifested itself in his public speeches.

We know as well that Mr. Flaherty has had health issues. They have been more aggravating than dangerous. The drugs he's taking to treat a skin condition have caused weight gain, among other side effects.

He is 63, and has no reasonable prospect of ever becoming prime minister or premier of Ontario (having twice run unsuccessfully for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership). There is no next act for this minister in politics.

Finance Minister is a stressful job, and Mr. Flaherty has been more stressed than most, as he dealt with the impact and aftermath of the 2009 recession.

The Prime Minister is planning a major cabinet shuffle this summer, and nothing would signal renewal like a new face in Finance.

Those are all reasons why Mr. Flaherty might decide to step down from the job.

But then there is the other side. First and by far foremost, Mr. Flaherty has the Prime Minister's confidence.

This was rather exuberantly manifested Sunday, when Mr. Harper (really an aide, sending an authorized text) tweeted: "Happy St. Patrick's day everyone. Special mention to my favourite Irishman, the world's best Finance Minister: @jimflaherty."

More substantially, people who know what they're talking about insist that there is no pressure from the Centre to convince Mr. Flaherty to move on. He has the job for as long as he wants it.

If Mr. Flaherty did step down as Finance Minister, he would probably have to resign his seat. Finance ministers don't take on subsequent cabinet portfolios (you have to go all the way back to Michael Wilson in the 1980s to find an exception). And Mr. Flaherty could hardly sit on the backbench for two years or more. Ending his life as Finance Minister would probably mean ending his life as a politician. For someone as politically engaged as Mr. Flaherty, that would be a difficult day.

Finally, Mr. Flaherty has stated publicly that he wants to remain in the job until he balances the budget in 2015. Why not take him at his word?

Add that up: The PM isn't pushing him to go; he has laid down a marker that he wants to stay; if he does step down it will likely be to retire from politics completely.

From this chair, the balance of probabilities favours Jim Flaherty staying on. But that, of course, is mere speculation.

John Ibbitson is The Globe and Mail's chief political writer in Ottawa.