Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay has thrown his hat into the ring for leadership of the federal Conservative Party, and says if elected, he intends to be a strong voice on a number of issues facing western Canada.
MacKay told 680 CJOB’s Richard Cloutier that although he’s from the Maritimes and represented Nova Scotia ridings in Parliament from 1997-2015, he spent a lot of time in the west in his ministerial roles under former prime minister Stephen Harper, and is looking forward to digging into issues facing the region, should he be chosen as leader.
“I worked with Stephen Harper to unite conservatives in the country, which resulted in forming a Conservative government … which I believe addressed a lot of the anxiety around the inclusivity of the west and ensuring their voice was heard, and heard loudly, and heard fairly by governments in Ottawa,” he said.
“I’m proud of the fact that I do come from Atlantic Canada and spent a significant part of working in the west and being in the west,” he said, adding that he’s been at the “epicentre” of many decisions involving pipelines, gun ownership, safe streets and security.
That experience, however, doesn’t mean he’s an expert on the region. MacKay said he welcomes further input and consultation from western leaders like Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, as well as everyday Canadians.
“I’m just embarking on this particular journey — it’s been less than 48 hours,” he said.
MacKay said he wants to hear directly from people on how to address the legitimate anxieties and concerns over what’s happened with national resources.
“How do we get to a better place for everyone in the country?”
MacKay, 54, served as deputy leader of the Conservative party, Minister of National Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice, and Attorney General of Canada — among other titles — before taking a hiatus for over four years.
Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will step down in June once the next leader is elected, a decision he announced in December. Under Scheer’s leadership, the party lost the 2019 federal election to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, but won the popular vote.
MacKay is perceived as more progressive than the man he hopes to replace. He said he’s not a “climate change denier’ and has seen the effects of climate change first-hand when visiting the High Arctic, but is in favour of respecting provincial jurisdiction on issues like the carbon tax.
“I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution, which is what appears to be proposed and imposed by the federal government … although they’ve shown some leeway,” he said.
“I believe that there is ample evidence now that demonstrates that a carbon tax has not had the desired effect. It has not impacted in any significant way the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions, and quite frankly, it disproportionately hurts rural parts of this country.”
Canada, he said, can become “part of the solution” to the problem.
MacKay’s announcement Saturday that he’s running for the party’s leadership comes from a desire, he said, to bring Canada to a better place.
“I feel that Canada is slipping. We are falling behind, whether it be on trade, whether it be elements of our justice system.”
He said the economy is suffering and the country needs a change in direction.
“My hope is that through the vehicle of politics, and the Conservative Party in particular, my leadership will bring our country to a better place, and a place that is more prosperous, more competitive, allows for more opportunity, and addresses some of these challenges.”
The replacement for Andrew Scheer will be chosen at a Conservative leadership election in Toronto on June 27.