Peter MacKay | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Peter MacKay

Peter MacKay, lawyer, politician (born 27 September 1965 in New Glasgow, NS). Peter MacKay is perhaps best known for his roles as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, and Minister of Justice in the Conservative governments led by Stephen Harper.

Peter MacKay, lawyer, politician (born 27 September 1965 in New Glasgow, NS). Peter MacKay is perhaps best known for his roles as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, and Minister of Justice in the Conservative governments led by Stephen Harper. Prior to the creation of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, MacKay was leader of the Progressive Conservative Party for a brief period; shortly after he won leadership of the party, he agreed to the merger of the Progressive Conservative and the Canadian Alliance parties to form the new Conservative Party.

Education and Law Career

Peter MacKay graduated from Acadia University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and from Dalhousie University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Laws. He was called to the Nova Scotia bar in 1991 and began practising in New Glasgow, focusing on criminal and family law. In 1991, MacKay moved to Germany, where he subsequently worked for Thyssen Henschel at Kassell for one year. He returned to Nova Scotia and settled in Pictou County, where he assumed the position of Crown Attorney with the Nova Scotia government.

As Crown Attorney, MacKay prosecuted cases at all levels, but became frustrated by his inability to change the justice system from his position as a prosecutor. He turned to Parliament, where laws are made.

Federal Politics

Peter MacKay ran for federal office and on 2 June 1997 was elected Progressive Conservative MP for Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough, in northeastern Nova Scotia. As a politician, MacKay has a certain pedigree — his father, Elmer MacKay, was solicitor general in Brian Mulroney's Conservative government.

During his first five years in the House of Commons, he served as House Leader for the Progressive Conservative caucus. In this capacity he represented the caucus on issues pertaining to management and operations of Parliament. He also served as the Progressive Conservative critic for law enforcement issues, and as a member of the Board of Internal Economy, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, the Standing Committee on Finance, and the Sub-Committee on the Study of Sport in Canada. MacKay resigned as House Leader in November 2002.

Leader of Progressive Conservatives

On 16 January 2003, Peter MacKay announced his decision to run for leadership of the party when Joe Clark, the party's longtime leader, announced his retirement. MacKay was the front-runner to succeed Clark, and on 31 May 2003 he became the Progressive Conservative Party's 23rd leader. But MacKay's leadership began with controversy. In an attempt to supersede other contenders, MacKay obtained the support of fellow candidate David Orchard, who backed MacKay in exchange for his promise to review the free-trade agreement and, more importantly, to avoid a merger between the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties. The latter issue had been a source of contention within the party for years. However, despite some fundamental differences in party platforms, many Tories believed that rejecting the merger would leave the party in shambles.

Conservative Party

On 16 October 2003, Peter MacKay and Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper announced the merger of their two parties under a new name — the Conservative Party of Canada. The merger was subsequently ratified by separate votes of the party memberships. On 8 December 2003 the Progressive Conservative and Alliance parties ceased to exist and the Conservative Party of Canada was born.

At first, it was thought that MacKay would run for leadership of the new party. He chose not to, however. Harper won the leadership in March 2004 and promptly named MacKay deputy leader of the party.

The subsequent federal election of 28 June 2004 saw the Conservative Party nearly wiped out in Atlantic Canada. MacKay, however, held on to his seat in the newly distributed riding of Central Nova. Overall, the Conservative Party won 99 seats, while the Liberals lost their majority, forming a minority government after the election.

Cabinet Posts

In November 2005, the three opposition parties — the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, and New Democratic Party — passed a non-confidence motion, contending that the Liberal government was corrupt. The resulting election, held 23 January 2006, returned a minority Conservative government, and Stephen Harper became the prime minister. Peter MacKay was named as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

In 2007, MacKay became Minister of National Defence, and in 2008 he announced that the government would be launching a program to upgrade Canadian military equipment. In 2010, he announced that the government would be purchasing 65 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, which would replace the aging CF-18s. MacKay and the Department of National Defence were criticized for underestimating the costs of this program.

MacKay was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Justice in 2013. In May 2015, he announced his resignation from federal politics: although he would continue as MP and Minister of Justice until October 2015, he would not run for office in the 2015 election.

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