Veteran Alberta MP and former cabinet minister Ted Menzies stressed the importance of honesty in public life as he announced his resignation after nearly 10 years on Parliament Hill.
The announcement from the well-liked Conservative MP quickly prompted best wishes from both sides of the increasingly fractious House of Commons.
Mr. Menzies had said earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. He told The Globe and Mail he is resigning now to take a job in the private sector and said the position will be announced in the coming weeks. He also said he has cleared the move with the federal ethics commissioner.
Born and raised in Alberta, the former grain farmer is the last Alberta MP with formal roots in the Progressive Conservative side of the Conservative Party that was created in 2003 from a merger between the PCs and the Canadian Alliance, which had formed out of the Reform Party.
Over his four terms in office as the MP for Macleod, in southern Alberta, he was rarely the source of controversy. He was well-regarded by MPs of all political stripes for his friendliness and professionalism. The former junior minister for finance was often called on by the government to provide calm, dispassionate answers to lower the temperature of debate during Question Period.
But he was uncharacteristically colourful Wednesday when a Calgary CBC radio host asked him what advice he would offer to somebody who is thinking about getting into politics, given recent controversies involving Senate expenses and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
“Don’t smoke crack in public. That’s a plain and simple message,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know how to be more blunt than that. No. Just be yourself and be honest with people and that goes a long ways. And that’s been my motto: Not be anybody different than you were before you were elected, whether you are a municipal politician, a provincial politician or a federal politician. And listen more than you talk.”
In an e-mail to The Globe, Mr. Menzies said his decision has absolutely nothing to do with the current political climate in Ottawa over the Senator expenses scandal.
Mr. Menzies first announced his resignation on Twitter and then followed it up with a news release.
“These past 9 1/2 years have been an incredible experience for me as your Member of Parliament. However, the time has come for me to move on,” said Mr. Menzies, 61, in a statement.
“Many of you will know that I never intended to be a career politician, and as I said earlier this year, the severe flooding in Southern Alberta was a vivid reminder of why I chose to stand for election in 2004 – to serve the constituents of Macleod. Stepping down from my ministerial duties in July allowed me time this summer to play a small part in helping those affected, and just be there for my constituents,” he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement thanking Mr. Menzies for his years of service, and praising him as a strong voice and advocate for Alberta.
“Ted’s expertise, insight and exemplary work ethic will certainly be missed,” said Mr. Harper in the statement.
Following a morning meeting of the Conservative caucus, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty described Mr. Menzies as a good friend.
“We’ll miss him here in Ottawa,” he said.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said he has enjoyed working with Mr. Menzies over the years.
“He’s a reminder that there was once such a thing as a Progressive Conservative,” he said.
Mr. Menzies’s departure adds a fifth vacancy in the 308-seat House of Commons. Four by-elections are currently scheduled for Nov. 25 in the ridings of Toronto Centre, Bourassa in Montreal, and Provencher and Brandon-Souris in Manitoba.