Viewer reaction to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's fight against a major skin disorder triggered two good questions.

Some wanted to know why it was sufficiently newsworthy to move from the front page of a national newspaper to the top of yesterday's show.

Others questioned why, if Flaherty's health was so newsworthy, hadn't one of the 100 or so journalists covering Parliament Hill bothered to ask him about it months ago.

Second answer first.

Canadian journalists generally believe that public figures have a private life and their health is off-limits unless the condition is debilitating or voluntarily disclosed.

But Jim Flaherty is the exception which disproves the rule. His political importance is such that his well-being is a public concern.

A particularly serious affliction threatening to end his career could move the market. Only an ailing prime minister could trigger a similar Bay Street reaction.

And right now, Flaherty's under major stress requiring intense focus as he enters the final drafting stage of the government's cornerstone budget.

Everything this government will do for the rest of this year orbits Flaherty's spring budget and the notorious omnibus budget bill in the fall. Most legislation is connected to it in some way. And that makes Jim Flaherty very much the man in the middle of all government activity.

That's why his health matters. But when he stood in the House this week and clutched his abdominal region in pain, it was shockingly obvious something was terribly wrong.

That's why it was almost a relief to learn Flaherty is suffering from a skin disorder which can be treated with a steroid, albeit one which can cause appearance changes and mood swings.

So if the worst we see is a puffy-faced Jim Flaherty who appears slightly testy at times, that's good news.

Those are the symptoms of a treatment leading to a speedy recovery, not something a whole lot worse.

That's the Last Word.