Bob Rae compared his last day on the job to attending his own funeral, given all the nice things his Liberal colleagues and political opponents had to say about him.
As he made his last appearance in the House as the interim leader of the Liberal Party, however, Mr. Rae said he will remain an MP and serve under the next full-time leader of the party, who will be elected on April 14.
“I’m not dead yet,” Mr. Rae said.
Mr. Rae reacted with charm, wit and self-deprecation as he was feted for the latest twist in his professional life, which has seen him go from the House of Commons to Queen’s Park and back, and from the NDP to the Liberal Party. Mr. Rae called himself a “rising star in five separate decades,” acknowledging he has moved around and earned accolades over the years, while failing to earn a chance to run for the Prime Minister’s position.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale praised Mr. Rae for agreeing to take over as the interim leader of the party after the disastrous 2011 election, at which point the Liberal hierarchy decided to take more than a year before launching the race to find a permanent replacement for Michael Ignatieff.
“We have a future to fight for, and hope for another day, because of you, sir,” Mr. Goodale said, reflecting the sentiment in the party that Mr. Rae helped stabilize the party and keep it in the news until a new leader was found.
The other parties in the House also offered kind words. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, a frequent critic of Mr. Rae’s tenure as Ontario premier in the early 1990s, warmly thanked him for privately offering his wise counsel on political matters of all kinds over the years.
Some of the biggest applause among MPs was directed at Mr. Rae’s wife, Arlene, and their three daughters, who were sitting in the gallery. Mr. Rae joked that he was happy to see his children witnessing the tributes flowing in his direction, “because I don’t think they realize what a great guy I really am.”