Canada's Best Top General Steps Down

Gen. Rick Hillier says his decision to step down as Canada's chief of defence staff this summer has nothing to do with perceived tensions with the PMO -- it's simply the right time to go.

CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife broke the news on Tuesday that Hillier had met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and told him he was stepping down.

On Wednesday, Hillier told Canada AM his relationship with Harper has been "great" during his three years in office and there is no truth to the perception that the prime minister has forced him out of the job.

Hillier, who has earned a reputation among the Canadian Forces rank-and-file as a soldier's soldier who stood up for the military, said he has accomplished the goals he set for himself.

Hillier"Nothing I do in life will ever be comparable to this appointment -- representing those great people in uniform and their families. But it's the right time to go and last night as I got home and talked to my wife about it, it was clear to both of us it was the right decision," Hillier said.

He said progress has been made in Afghanistan, confidence has been rebuilt in the Canadian Forces, the military itself has begun to be rebuilt and Canadians' support for the men and women in uniform is at a high point.

The next few years will be a period where the Canadian Forces begin to "deliver on the Afghanistan mission, deliver on a defence strategy, deliver on all the equipping programs we need to have and that we'll start and continue," he said.

"And I think that's a natural change for a new (chief of defence staff) to take the helm and take the Canadian Forces forward for the next three or four year period," Hillier said.

Now that word of his pending retirement is out, Hillier plans to take a long weekend off, then continue working until some time in July when he will hand over the reins.

Hillier said he hopes "to continue to serve our country in a variety of ways, so whatever opportunity comes across I'll consider and look at and we'll go from there."


However, he said rumours that he will be running for political office in his home province of Newfoundland are off the mark, adding that he has no idea what's next for him.

"They're wrong," he told Canada AM co-host Seamus O'Regan. "I told Danny Williams that, I told everybody back in Newfoundland that. He said we need leaders and I said 'Danny, stop'."

When he returns to Newfoundland it will be to fish, hunt, pick berries and spend quality time with Newfoundlanders, he said.

Following is a list of potential candidates to replace Hillier:

  • Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, head of the army;

  • Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson, head of the navy;

  • Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk, vice-chief of defence staff; and,

  • Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, chief of the Forces overseas deployments.


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