Former Liberal leader Bob Rae to resign from House of Commons

Bob Rae (CP)Bob Rae is retiring from Parliament.

The MP from Toronto Centre, the former interim leader of the Liberal Party and the former premier of Ontario made the announcement on Parliament Hill on Wednesday morning.

A visibly emotional Rae said he's leaving to commit more time to First Nations issues. Last month, Rae became the chief negotiator for First Nations groups in talks with the Ontario government about the Ring of Fire development.

[ Related: Toronto MP, former Liberal leader Bob Rae resigning House of Commons seat ]

Rae later released this statement to reporters:

Some months ago I agreed to work with the Matawa Tribal Council in northern Ontario as their negotiator in dealings with the government of Ontario.

The Ring of Fire mining development will have a huge impact on the communities in the area and well beyond. How positive that impact could be has yet to be determined, and will depend on the outcome of the discussions that are now underway, and will only intensify in the time ahead.

It has become clear to me that the full scope of the negotiator's job is no longer compatible with my also serving as a member of Parliament. And so I face a choice.

I have decided to return to my profession as a lawyer and mediator, to continue working for the Matawa Tribal Council, and to step down as the Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre.

This has been a difficult personal decision. I was first elected to Parliament in 1978, and was deeply honoured to have had the chance to serve again these past five years, as well as to lead the Liberal Party at a time of change and renewal. I have made wonderful friendships, and am so proud of the renewal and rebuilding that has been accomplished over the last few years. I'm leaving the party in confidence that the party is in good shape.

I am especially happy that as interim leader I was able to champion aboriginal issues, and share the importance of mental health with my colleagues. I also particularly enjoyed having the confidence of Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and Justin Trudeau as foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal Party. I shall miss this work very much.

I want to thank my constituents in Toronto Centre, my colleagues and friends in the Liberal Party and all parties in Parliament, my leader, Justin Trudeau, and the people of Canada for giving me the chance to serve. It has been an honour and a pleasure.

Helping to improve the life of First Nations people has been a longstanding commitment of mine, and this opportunity to serve is one I felt I could not decline.

I have told Mr. Trudeau and my colleagues that I shall continue to work for the Liberal Party, and I look forward to remaining engaged in Canadian public life.

[ Related: Resigning Bob Rae says he will not run to be Toronto's mayor ]

Rae is ending a political career that has spanned four decades in which he was an NDP member of Parliament, an NDP premier of Ontario, a Liberal MP and finally the interim leader of the federal Liberal party.

While some may decry his financial record as Ontario's premier or chide him for being a political turncoat, Rae performed admirably as Liberal leader. He was an effective adversary to Stephen Harper in the House of Commons and kept his 'third party' in the news. In 2011, he was even voted as 'Parliamentarian of the Year' by his House of Commons colleagues.

On Wednesday, Rae, 64, didn't want to talk about his political legacy, saying that was for others to decide.

Tributes for him, from both Liberals and non-Liberals alike, were overflowing on Twitter.

A former colleague of Rae's was also very complimentary.

"Bob was arguably the most accommodating Leader of the Party," former Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who served under Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, told Yahoo! Canada News.

"Knowledgeable and articulate, Bob was perhaps the most gifted orator of our time. He is irreplaceable."

Even the National Citizen Coalition's Stephen Taylor had some nice things to say about the former interim leader on this day — sort of.

"Bob Rae has been part of an unsuccessful reshuffling of Liberal leaders following Mr. Chretien's departure from the Prime Minister's Office," Taylor told Yahoo!.

"The Liberals could have benefited from his political experience most if they had selected him as leader instead of Mr. Dion in 2006. The NDP's coalition play in 2008 may well have remained stable for more than a few days, despite vast popular objection, had the former NDP premier been the Liberal partner in the coalition at the time."

Taylor also put forward another view undoubtedly shared by a lot of his conservative brethren.

"Bob Rae's legacy in Canadian politics will be marked by years of economic ruin in while he was Premier of Ontario, with the highest income taxes in North America, and greatest job losses since the 1930s," Taylor said.

"Federally, he was a floor crosser who was never fully embraced by the Liberal Party."

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