OTTAWA - Calgary MP Lee Richardson, whose political connections to Ottawa extend back four decades, is quitting the House of Commons to work for Alberta Premier Alison Redford.
The veteran politician took his gracious leave of the Commons on Wednesday.
He will become Redford's principal secretary.
"This is an exciting challenge at a moment when Alberta's new premier is claiming a leadership role in the Canadian federation in a way that only Peter Lougheed amongst her predecessors has done," Richardson said.
In Edmonton, Redford described what the new position will entail.
"He will serve as principal secretary, which means principal adviser to me, supporting the chief of staff, working with caucus, working with cabinet ministers and being involved in particular policy files," she said.
The 64-year-old Richardson has a long political pedigree.
"I sat in this gallery 40 years ago as executive assistant to the right honourable John Diefenbaker, Canada's 13th prime minister," he told a hushed Commons.
"He was no longer the leader of the Progressive Conservative party, at that time, but he was still master of this House, the greatest parliamentarian of his time."
Richardson was first elected to the Commons in the riding of Calgary Southeast in 1988 with the government of Brian Mulroney. He was defeated by a Reform candidate in 1993.
He returned to the Commons in 2004, winning in Calgary Centre and was re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2011.
Richardson once worked for former Alberta premier Lougheed and was a deputy chief of staff to Mulroney.
The departing MP paid tribute to both Mulroney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"I think all Calgarians take great pride that our country is led by one of our own and I'm proud to have served in his government and I'm grateful for his friendship and support."
In a statement, Harper thanked Richardson for his work as an MP.
"Lee has brought his expertise to a number of roles, including as chair of several standing committees, most recently the standing committee on international trade," he said.
"We will miss Lee's wisdom and insight as we look to open new markets for Canadian goods."
Nathan Cullen, the NDP House leader, said Richardson has weathered his time in the Commons well.
"I must say, the time has been remarkably good to my friend from Calgary Centre."
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said it was a pleasure to work with Richardson.
Recent Federal Floor Crossers
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/10/lise-st-denis-ndp-join-liberals_n_1196406.html?ref=canada-politics">Lise St-Denis' defection from the NDP to the Liberals</a> has put crossing the floor back in the news. Here's a list of other recent federal floor crossers.
The newly elected NDP MP jumped ship to the Liberals just 5 months after the federal election of 2011. St-Denis faced harsh criticism from those who saw the move as disregarding the will of her constituents. Many argued that voters in St-Denis' Quebec riding had voted for Jack Layton and not for her.
In 2005, Belinda Stronach, Conservative MP and daughter of billionaire Frank Stronach, crossed the floor and joined Paul Martin's Liberal Party. She was named Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal.
In 2006, Liberal MP David Emerson joined the Conservatives just two weeks after being elected. He was named Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics.
In 2007, Wajid Khan jumped from the Liberals to the Conservatives after then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion stated that Khan would not be permitted to continue in his role as an advisor to Stephen Harper.
Carolyn Parish was suspended from the Liberal caucus in 2004 after stomping on a George Bush doll for a "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" sketch. The outspoken MP subsequently decided to sit as an independent.
In 2004, Canadian Alliance MP Keith Martin renounced his party to sit as an independent and announced he would seek to run as a Liberal in the next election. His move was a response to the merger between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. He would go on to win the Liberal nomination in his riding and the election and sat in the Liberal caucus until his retirement in 2011.
While Bob Rae isn't technically a floor crosser (he didn't switch parties while sitting as an MP) the interim Liberal leader did switch parties. Rae governed Ontario has the province's NDP premier from 1990-1995. In 1996 he resigned as leader of the Ontario NDP and in 1998 resigned from the party altogether. He returned to politics in 2006, joining the Liberal Party and running for its leadership. He was defeated in his leadership bid by Stéphane Dion, but won the federal riding of Toronto Centre in 2007.
Ujjal Dosanjh shares a similar story to Bob Rae. He served as NDP premier of B.C. from 2000-2001, but later joined the federal Liberals. He served as an Liberal MP from 2004 until his defeat in the most recent federal election.