Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has announced he will resign as both a member of Parliament and cabinet minister, effective Tuesday.
Toews was first elected in the Manitoba riding of Provencher in 2000 and has served in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper since the Conservatives won government in 2006. Toews served as minister of justice and Treasury Board president before moving to the public safety portfolio in 2010.
His departure had long been rumoured but with a cabinet shuffle expected this month, Toews has become just the latest senior Conservative to make future plans clear.
Toews has been one of the Harper government's more controversial ministers. He came under fire trying to bring in some of the Tories strongest anti-crime legislation, including Bill C-30, the so-called Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. Critics of the bill said that the bill infringed on the privacy of Canadians.
"He can either stand with us or stand with the child pornographers," Toews scolded a Liberal critic of the bill in the House of Commons last year.
The comment sparked outrage among Canadians and opposition and led to private details of Toews' divorce and affair being spread online.
Toews also crossed swords with online vigilante group Anonymous over the bill. The group went as far as to post videos threatening the minister online.
"This online group called Anonymous that posted the videos hides behind masks and their claim to anonymity, and it is their threats that clearly attempt to intimidate me, and in fact all parliamentarians, as we carry out our democratically elected responsibilities," Toews said.
From his official statement:
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.
More from The Canadian Press..
TEINBACH, Man. _ A federal cabinet minister who suggested his opponents were allies of child pornographers and saw details of his sordid divorce on social media while he argued for increased Internet surveillance is leaving public life.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced Monday, in the leadup to an anticipated cabinet shuffle, that he was resigning as MP for the Manitoba riding of Provencher effective Tuesday.
"I am leaving public life in order to focus on my family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector," Toews said in a news release.
Toews, 60, was first elected to the House of Commons in 2000 under the banner of the Canadian Alliance and was re-elected four times. In the last federal election in 2011, he won the seat for the Conservatives with just over 70 per cent of the vote.
He was solicitor general and minister of justice before he was appointed to the public safety portfolio. He was also named president of the Treasury Board in 2007 and again in October 2008.
"I've been in politics for a long time," he told radio station CHSM in Steinbach, Man. "One of the commitments I made to my spouse by the time my young son goes to school, I will have left politics. He is entering Grade 1 this year and I think it is time to go."
He said he leaves 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."
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Toews is entitled to a pension of $79,584 a year, indexed to inflation.
"My sincere thanks to (at)toewsvic as he leaves Parliament," tweeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Best wishes for the future."
"Best wishes to my friend and colleague (at)ToewsVic as he leaves public life after 13 years of service," said Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.
Toews was a polarizing political figure. The Globe and Mail newspaper disabled the comments section on the story about his departure because "an overwhelming number of readers were making offensive statements about other commenters and/or the individual or individuals mentioned in the story."
Toews drew derision during a debate on the government's online surveillance bill in February 2012 for telling a Liberal critic he could "either stand with us or with the child pornographers." He later softened his stance somewhat.
His private life was thrust into the spotlight that same month when a Liberal staffer created a Twitter account called Vikileaks30 and began releasing bite-sized portions from Toews's divorce.
Toews resignation unleashed a torrent of vitriol online as many rejoiced in his departure while a few others commended him for his service. There were snide comments about everything from his messy divorce to his political legacy.
"Truly one of the worst politicians in Canadian history," opined someone under the name (at)funnyhandle.
Federal NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said he doesn't think Toews leaves much of a legacy.
"Mr. Toews has been in politics for many years. I think unfortunately all too often we saw spite and short-sightedness instead of gravitas. I think that that's all I can say about Mr. Toews."
Added NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin: "I wish him all the best for his future work but very humbly and candidly, I'd say that many of my colleagues and myself won't miss his insults."
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player who was sexually abused by coach Graham James and now advocates for victims, said Toews has a strong legacy.
When news broke that James — who repeatedly molested several players in his charge for years — had been quietly granted a pardon, Toews worked quickly to ensure that would never happen again by changing the law, Kennedy said.
"To be able to eliminate pardons for sex offenders, I think is huge," Kennedy said. "Vic's made some hard changes that ... you know you're going to get flak for and he made them because they needed to be made not because they're popular."
Speculation has already begun as to who will take Toews's place as Manitoba's regional cabinet minister. Some are betting the province's new voice will be a woman.
Richard Sigurdson, dean of arts at the University of Calgary, said Manitoba backbenchers Shelly Glover and Candice Bergen could be due for a promotion.
"This is not your father's Conservative party," he said. "The prime minister does have some interesting possibilities going forward and many of those possibilities will look quite a bit different from Vic Toews."
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