A polarizing politician, Vic Toews leaves public life

Vic Toews
Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety speaks to the media at Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 8, 2013. Toews announced his retirement from politics on Monday, July 8, 2013. ( Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

To those looking for reasons to dislike Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, Vic Toews was the likely poster boy. As Minister of Justice and as Minister of Public Safety, Toews was on the front lines of the Harper government’s mission to “get tough on crime” and to demonize political opponents who refused to get behind the Conservative agenda. He was the sharp end of the Conservative spear. Conservatives generally enjoyed his “take no prisoners” approach to both politics and, er, prisoners. Sometimes he went to far.   Still, within the party, partisans looked past any excess and it was quite clear that Toews was a popular figure.

By accident or design, Toews’s put on the public persona of the “hanging judge” who had no patience for those who wanted to explore the “root causes” of crime and who saw the world in black and white terms.  He gave no quarter to those in the media who he saw as enemies — chiefly anyone associated with the Winnipeg Free Press — while other journalists were allowed to see a Toews who could be wickedly funny and fiercely loyal to his friends and to his province.

In any event, his decision — announced today but reported two weeks ago by my Winnipeg Sun colleague Tom Brodbeck — to retire as an MP is a significant one for Harper in that, for better or for worse, Toews contributed significantly to its character.

Here is the statement Toews released today:

Today, I am announcing my resignation as Member of Parliament for Provencher, Minister of Public Safety, and Regional Minister for Manitoba, effective tomorrow, Tuesday, July 9th.

It has been an honour to represent the people of Provencher for the past 12 and-a-half years in the House of Commons. I would like to express my gratitude to my constituents for placing their trust in me. It is a responsibility I took very seriously and a privilege I will never forget.

I would like to thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for giving me the opportunity to serve in his Cabinet as the Regional Minister for Manitoba since 2006 and, concurrently, in turn, as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the President of the Treasury Board, and as Minister of Public Safety. Our Prime Minister is a man of great character and integrity. His leadership has seen our country through very difficult economic times. Canada is recognized as a global leader and is the envy of nations around the world. I know that Canadians will continue to benefit from this government’s ongoing work.

I would also like to thank all of my parliamentary colleagues for their friendship and support. Specifically, I would like to thank the members of the Manitoba Federal Conservative Caucus. I could not be more proud of you and the work you do on behalf of our Province.

I would not have been able to do my job if not for the competent and talented staff members who worked beside me over the years. Thank you to all of my staff in my riding offices, my regional office in Winnipeg and to my political and departmental staff in Ottawa. You have always been extremely dedicated and hard working. You have had a very positive impact on my life and for that I will always be grateful.

The lifeblood of any political organization is its volunteers. Over the years I have met many volunteers who have worked hard on my campaigns and in many other capacities between elections. You have made all the difference. Thank you for your tireless efforts and enthusiasm.

I would like to thank my spouse Stacey, my children and my extended family and friends for their patience and understanding. There are tremendous sacrifices made by family members so that elected officials can serve in public office. It is not an easy life for family and words alone cannot describe my gratitude for your unyielding support.

When I entered federal politics in 2000, I did so with the intention of making a positive contribution to Canada by being a part of the movement to unite conservatives across the country. Looking back, I believe I accomplished what I did because of my desire to work with other like-minded people. Teamwork is the best way for individual Members of Parliament to accomplish the long-term goals of their constituents.

I leave public office at a time when I believe our country is more sensitive to the needs of victims, more fiscally sound and safer for citizens and future generations of Canadians.

I am proud of the achievements of our government over the last seven years. In addition to the numerous steps we have taken to rebalance the criminal justice system to ensure that criminals are held accountable to individual victims and Canadian society as a whole, we were able to renew Canada’s physical infrastructure. My home province of Manitoba received support for hundreds of important projects, including funds for the completion of the Red River Floodway Expansion Project.

During my time as Minister of Public Safety, I was honoured to support the Prime Minister in the negotiation and implementation of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. I was also particularly proud that our government created Canada’s first Counter-Terrorism and Cyber-Security strategies, implemented a Human Trafficking Action Plan, and began a discussion with all levels of government on the economics of policing in Canada. These accomplishments are just some of the ways our government has made Canada a stronger, safer and more prosperous country.

It takes a great deal of deliberation on the part of those who decide to enter politics. It takes an even greater amount of consideration and effort to step out of office when one still enjoys the support of those who elected them. However, for me, the time has come to step aside and begin the next chapter of my life.

I am leaving public life in order to focus on my family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector. I leave with a store of many wonderful memories, lifelong friendships and a sense of having accomplished many of the things I set out to do when I first began my political journey.

To all who made this possible, thank you.

One thought on “A polarizing politician, Vic Toews leaves public life”

  1. The honourable career of an honourable man — with a minor blip, IMO, being that intemperate retort back at a single Liberal MP, a retort the majority of reports distorted, portraying it as being directed at ALL Canadians.

    Also interesting to note that the bill that was so maligned by both sides of the political spectrum was “… first introduced by former Liberal public safety minister Anne McLellan in 2005 in a slightly different form …” [from column by Tom Broadbeck].

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