For the record: Stephen Harper toasts Peter MacKay

The text of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s remarks on the announcement that Justice Minister Peter MacKay will not seek re-election

The following is the prepared text for remarks made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the decision of Peter MacKay to not seek re-election.

Peter, Nazanin, ladies and gentlemen, friends.

In a few moments your Member of Parliament, Peter, will be making an announcement about his future plans.

I think some of you might have an inkling of what he’s going to say.

Anyway, I’m going to try to not pre-empt Peter’s remarks.

But I don’t mind telling you that I’m here in a very reflective state of mind, a mixture of great pride with more than a little bit of sorrow.

Peter MacKay is an outstanding public servant.

Peter MacKay is a great person.

And Peter MacKay is a historic figure.

And I want to talk for just a few moments about each one of these three things.

You know about the outstanding public servant.

For 18 years Peter has served the great people of Central Nova through thick and thin, doing day in and day out all this riding could ask of him.

For part of that period, he was Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, making the many decisions of an organization that plays a vital role in the economic life of this part of our great country.

But, of course, Peter has also been a distinguished public servant on the national stage.

Indeed, over the past nine and a half years, he has held some of the most important executive positions in the Government of Canada, successively Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

And he has been critical to shaping transformations in each of these areas.

In Foreign Affairs, he led a reorientation of policy to assert Canada’s interests and to project Canada’s values, to take clear, sometimes tough stands, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends, to stand up to those who threaten them and us.

In National Defence, Peter MacKay has been the second-longest serving Minister in Canadian history, overseeing the re-equipping of the Canadian Armed Forces after the ‘Decade of Darkness,’ the re-emergence of the Canadian military as a player in global security, and the restoration of the status of our men and women in uniform as members of our greatest national institution.

And, of course, long before he became Minister of Justice, Peter was a voice for profound change in our system of criminal justice, to make criminal justice once again about more than the criminal, to make it about law-abiding citizens, their property and their families and, especially, to make it about the victims of criminal acts.

And I know that among his many achievements, Peter will consider passage, this year, of the Victims Bill of Rights, as among his most cherished.

And that leads me to Peter MacKay the person, a great person.

Peter’s passion for criminal justice reform has been more than a policy passion; it has been all about people.

I’ve seen it up close.

Peter has long been involved in and close to those who have sought criminal justice reform.

He cares deeply about the police officers and law-enforcement officials who get so little thanks but keep us secure; about the families who seek only safe streets and communities for their children; and most of all, he cares, and has been close to, those who have been crime’s worst victims and those working hard to see them better treated.

As I said, I’ve seen this up close many times.

Just as I have seen, many times, how much Peter is liked and admired by those he works with, especially by his colleagues.

They may from time to time disagree with him, maybe even get mad at him, but they also know Peter cares about them and does his best for them; a ‘team guy,’ in the deepest sense of the term.

One of Peter’s passion for people has been his long involvement, probably not realized by most, in the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Now, it’s not the Peter MacKay I first heard about in Ottawa.

When I first met Peter – I suspect he doesn’t even remember this – I was out of Parliament, for good I thought, and he had been elected for the first time not long before, I met the young Peter MacKay, ‘sexiest male MP’ and all that.

But, Peter can confirm this, I always told him a good bachelor life is no match for a good married life, and no match for a good family life.

I told Peter to make sure he didn’t miss out on that, and I told him that he would be good at it.

And how did I know that?

Not just because of his role in Big Brothers.

Because I saw how the relationship he struck up with my son Ben when Ben was just a young boy.

Peter probably doesn’t really appreciate the impression he made, but after spending a couple of times together, for a long time with Ben it was just ‘Peter MacKay this; Peter MacKay that’ like the big brother he never had.

It was great to see.

But what’s even greater is to see Nazanin and little Kian, and a sibling to come.

Great to see even though I knew down deep it would lead to tonight, when no matter how much you enjoy being part of this great ride we are on, the time comes to try to get off, even though, because the ride never actually stops, getting off is never easy.

But, when that time comes, Peter MacKay will be seen for what he is: a historic figure.

For, my friends, when we created the new Conservative Party of Canada nearly 12 years ago, there were two signatures on that agreement: my own and Peter’s.

That moment in October 2003 changed, without a shadow of a doubt, the course of Canadian politics.

It took a sense of destiny; it took a spirit of humility; and it took a willingness to compromise.

These were difficult decisions.

Truthfully, for reasons I won’t revisit, more difficult on Peter’s side than on mine, but difficult for both.

Certain policies, certain structures, that seemed so important then, had to be set aside.

And frankly, they don’t seem so important now anyway, because we all know how different the future turned out.

Who remembers Paul Martin’s 250-seat-majority government?

A foregone conclusion back in September 2003.

So as a good Atlantic Canadian, as two guys descended from good Atlantic Canadians, we had to be able to read the waters, to see that a tide was running which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, to success, and that if we missed it, to pursue Shakespeare’s famous statement, the voyage of all our lives – the lives of all Canada’s conservatives – would be bound in shallows and miseries.

Peter recognized that moment.

And because he did, hundreds of thousands of Canadians were united – from coast to coast to coast – and were able to elect three times a strong, stable, national and eventual majority Conservative government.

And it has made a great difference.

I’ve already talked about the things Peter himself has led.

There have been big things and little things.

Big things: I think about a world where so many governments are spiralling down in debt, service cuts and tax hikes, but where Canada has a balanced budget, new investments, and tax breaks that put money into the pockets of our hard-working families and senior citizens.

And little things: like we can pay for some advertising to make sure Canadian families and seniors get those benefits, and know that the money will actually be spent on advertising.

It wasn’t anything like that back in 2003.

Since then, Peter and I, all of us, have travelled far together, symbolized by this united party, by Peter’s wonderful young family, and by this great country, the best in the world, better than ever before.

Thank you, Peter, for your leadership, for your contribution, and for your friendship.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the podium Nova Scotia’s most distinguished son, one of Canada’s great Conservatives, your Member of Parliament, Peter MacKay.

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