In ten years of provincial politics, ten in federal politics, and as a minister in ten different departments, I've had a fair number of decisions to make.
There is no doubt that standing down from cabinet, and choosing not to stand in the 2015 federal election, was one of the most difficult decisions of my career. However, I know it was the right one for me personally.
Stepping aside from this calling was difficult because the work of public service is never complete; there is always a fresh challenge to tackle.
In Canada, our economy can always be stronger, communities always safer and public infrastructure always further improved.
There is no right time to leave public life behind. There is always a campaign around the corner, a ministerial meeting to attend, or a local priority to address. That is why this decision was not taken lightly, nor without much reflection and thought.
After twenty years of public life, I felt I needed to look towards the future.
Being Canada's Foreign Minister was one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences of my life. I have always been grateful to have the trust of the Prime Minister, blessed to have the confidence of my constituents, and honoured to serve Canadians.
This opportunity allowed me to see the strength that Canada offers to the world. I've seen it in the eyes of Haitian kids as they landed in Ottawa to start a new life after the horrible events of 2010. I've seen it in Syrian children, fleeing violence and persecution on the Jordanian border, who were greeted by aid workers with blankets, food, shelter, and a safe haven. I've seen it in the besieged protesters on the Maidan in Ukraine, who needed to know the outside world would stand with them.
In all of these events, and many more, Canada and Canadians extended a hand of strength and resolve to those who needed it. I've been proud and humbled to see first-hand accounts of our generosity around the world and the reflection of our values in emerging nations.
Canadians can be proud of what we stand for. They can be proud that our government has always put their interests first.
I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished. We have shown Canada's strength, Canada's compassion, and Canada's values in every corner of the world.
We have given Canadians the tools they need to succeed in the international marketplace, with historic free-trade deals.
We have provided lifesaving support to people in areas where death and destruction are far too common.
Canada has stood up for the oppressed, and brought much hope and dignity to the people that seek the same freedoms we enjoy.
We have championed freedom in those areas of the world where their leaders use violence and repression as tools of the weak and cowardly.
This work will never be complete. Those who take the torch from here forward will face a challenging world, but they should do so with the context of what made our country great.
Leaders before us have shaped the cause of human history. Leaders to follow will cement the future of the next generation. To play any role in our country's storied history is nothing short of a privilege.
I look forward to the next chapter of my life, and I will always be grateful for the friends I have made over the last twenty years.
As a fresh-faced young adult at the ripe age of 25, I walked through the doors at Queen's Park, feeling a great sense of accomplishment. With a majority government in hand, I always looked forward to what the next challenge would be.
As I walk out of the doors of Centre Block, the heart of our democracy, I look forward to the challenges ahead. And to all Canadians who have supported me over the last twenty years, there's only one thing left to say. Thank you.