Peter MacKay confirms his intention to seek Conservative party leadership

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OTTAWA — Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay says he’s in the running for leadership of the federal Conservatives.

He posted the message to his social media accounts Wednesday, his first on-the-record acknowledgment of his leadership aspirations.

“I’m in. Stay tuned,” he wrote on Twitter, followed by a similar message in French.

MacKay has been pegged as a contender to take over the party not just since Andrew Scheer stepped down in mid-December, but for years.

MacKay was instrumental in creating the modern incarnation of the Conservatives, having helmed half of its predecessor, the Progressive Conservatives.

That party merged with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, and MacKay became deputy leader under the new boss: Stephen Harper.

MacKay, who is from a longtime conservative family in Nova Scotia, would go on to serve in multiple cabinet posts in Harper’s three Conservative governments.

He stepped down ahead of the 2015 election, the year the federal Conservatives lost power and Harper himself resigned as leader.

MacKay’s name immediately surfaced as a possible replacement, but he stuck to life in the private sector.

Scheer would go on to win the leadership of the party in a 2017 contest.

But as Scheer faltered in the 2019 campaign, MacKay’s name came up again when people spoke of a potential replacement.

After the Tories failed to form government, MacKay emerged quickly as an outspoken critic of how Scheer had managed the election, saying the party’s efforts were akin to missing a shot on an open net — a reference to the fact they couldn’t take down a Liberal government besmirched by multiple scandals.

He also said socially conservative issues hung around Scheer’s neck like a “stinking albatross” and cost the party crucial support.

Since leaving politics, MacKay has worked as a lawyer in Toronto. He is married to human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam. They have three children.

Scheer’s decision to step back as leader of the party once his replacement is chosen saw a number of contenders get into position to launch campaigns.

MacKay has been making the rounds of conservative and community events for weeks, laying the groundwork to meet the entry requirements for the race.

The rules were formally set over the weekend. MacKay and any other contenders need the signatures of 3,000 party members, with 1,000 coming from at least 30 different ridings across seven provinces and territories.

He’ll also need to pay a non-refundable $200,000 fee, and a further $100,000 his campaign would get back as long as they stick to the rules.

The registration deadline for candidates is Feb. 27, and they must meet all the requirements by March 25.

Party members will vote for a new leader on June 27 at a convention in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


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