Vic Toews resigns ahead of cabinet shuffle

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has announced that he is retiring from politics and will resign as a cabinet minister and as member of Parliament for Provencher effective Tuesday.

Public safety minister wants to focus on family, private sector

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, one of the more controversial members of Stephen Harper's cabinet, has decided to retire from politics. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has announced that he is retiring from politics and will resign as a cabinet minister and as member of Parliament for Provencher effective Tuesday, ahead of what is expected to be a major cabinet shuffle this summer.

"It takes a great deal of deliberation on the part of those who decide to enter politics," said Toews in a statement on Monday.

"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."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged the resignation via Twitter saying, "my sincere thanks to @ToewsVic as he leaves Parliament. Best wishes for the future."

Toews, 60, joins a growing line of Conservatives who are clearing the way for Harper to add new faces to his next cabinet in a widely expected shuffle.

Last week, Senator Marjory LeBreton announced her resignation as leader of the government in the Senate, while two Alberta MPs, Diane Ablonczy and Ted Menzies, announced they will not be running again in 2015. Ablonczy is the minister of state for foreign affairs, and Menzies is the minister of state for finance.

Environment Minister Peter Kent said that while he would "enthusiastically embrace" being a backbench MP if he is shuffled out of cabinet, he does intend to run again in the 2015 federal election.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield is battling cancer and has already asked to be relieved of his cabinet position.

Toews said he is leaving public life to focus on his family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

He told Steinbach radio station CHSM that "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."

"I am having discussions with various companies and individuals," he told the Manitoba radio station. "This summer I will be working somewhat, but will be taking a little time off and enjoying some of the beautiful life we have here in Manitoba."

Toews held prominent cabinet posts

As CBC's Greg Weston reported on Friday, Toews's views on criminal justice issues and attacks on political opponents made him one of the more controversial members of Harper's cabinet.

Most controversial perhaps were comments he made in question period during a debate about a proposed online surveillance bill, telling Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia he could "either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

Toews later stepped back from his comments telling CBC News, "If fair minded Canadians have come to the conclusion that my comments in that respect, that I made in the heat of parliamentary debate were not appropriate, I'm prepared to accept their judgment," Toews said.

The public safety minister was also the target of an anonymous Twitter account that detailed his divorce, taking snippets from affidavits filed by him and his ex-wife.

It was later revealed that Adam Carroll, a Liberal Party staffer, was behind the "Vikileaks" Twitter campaign against Toews.

Toews was also president of the Treasury Board from 2007-10, and justice minister from 2006-07. He was first elected in 2000.

"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," Toews said.

Toews was responsible for seeing through part of the Harper government's tough on crime agenda, including raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age, ending the long-gun registry, and enhancing the RCMP Accountability Act, among other pieces of legislation.

NDP MP Francoise Boivin, her party's justice critic, said she wishes Toews well but "won't miss his insults." She told a news conference in Ottawa that she hopes his replacement takes public safety seriously.

Her colleague Charlie Angus said Toews has been in politics for many years and that "all too often we saw spite and short-sightedness instead of gravitas."

"That's all I can say about Mr. Toews," he responded when asked about the minister's legacy.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay praised his cabinet colleague whom he first met when Toews was the attorney general of Manitoba.

"He's had a long and distinguished career in public service," MacKay said in Halifax on Monday.

With files from The Canadian Press