OTTAWA — Scott Brison was feted Wednesday as a trailblazer for gay rights as he announced his intention to retire from federal politics this weekend.
Brison — who made history as Canada's first openly gay cabinet minister and again as the first federal politician to marry his same-sex partner — announced that Sunday will be his last day as the Liberal MP for King-Hants, the Nova Scotia riding he's represented for 22 years.
He resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet early last month, after deciding over the holidays that he would not seek re-election this fall so he could spend more time with his family: husband Maxime St. Pierre and their four-year-old twins, Rose and Claire.
In a swan song Wednesday in the House of Commons, Brison noted that a family like his would not have been legally recognized when he was first elected as a Progressive Conservative in 1997.
"The House of Commons has not just been a place that has shaped my career, it has shaped my life," said Brison, who was a minister in the Liberal government of Paul Martin that legalized same-sex marriage.
"I feel privileged to have helped contribute in some small ways to this progress as a parliamentarian but also to have benefited from it as a citizen. And that's one of the many reasons that today, as I leave public life, my belief in government, in Parliament and, indeed, in politics as a force for good is stronger than ever."
Trudeau embraced Brison after his speech and parliamentarians from all parties in the House paid tribute to him as a politician who was invariably funny but also respectful of opposing viewpoints.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Brison "embodies and helped drive some of the biggest social changes our country has ever seen."
Throughout a career that saw him run unsuccessfully for the leaderships of two different parties, Goodale said Brison "proved himself to be a smart, funny, principled, decent, devoted trailblazer with friends across both sides of the House."
New Democrat MP Randall Garrison praised Brison for practising politics with a vibrant sense of humour and no "shadow of malice." Conservative MP Lisa Raitt similarly said she'll miss Brison's "wit and humour" and unapologetic passion for politics.
For his part, when one of his "laugh lines" elicited no chuckles, Brison urged his fellow parliamentarians to lighten up: "For goodness sakes, can you just in my absence, can you bring a sense of humour back to this place? Reverse the full humourectomy that has fallen on the House of Commons."
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press