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.

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