Conservative Peter MacKay rallies Island Tories

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 26, 2016

Former federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay, second right, shares a joke with former cabinet colleague Gail Shea and members of the provincial PC caucus, from left Sidney MacEwen, Steven Myers and Colin LaVie.

©TERESA WRIGHT/THE GUARDIAN

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay may not be officially be in the race for leadership of the Conservative party of Canada, but an appearance he made in P.E.I. last week had all the makings of a stump speech.

MacKay was in Prince Edward Island as guest speaker for Tory MLA Steven Myers’ Progressive Conservative riding association dinner in St. Peters.

MacKay praised the Conservative party’s record in Ottawa and encouraged members to focus on rebuilding the party.

“Much of the challenge in rebuilding is also being honest about our record and being proud of our record as a government, being proud of the initiatives we’ve taken sometimes against all odds,” MacKay said.

“We have to be aggressive sometimes in talking about things we have done.”

He took a few lighthearted jabs at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying, “Glib one-liners and selfies aren’t going to fix the economy.”

He also elicited laughs when he joked that Cardigan MP and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay has “saved repeatedly” the Wood Islands ferry service.

He then ventured into some core Conservative party issues, including defending mandatory minimum sentences for violent and sexual offenders and denouncing the Liberal government’s decision to end the combat mission against ISIS, including pulling Canada’s fighter jets.

“It’s coming to North America. It’s here, we’re on their list. Their stated intent is to destroy our way of life, and we’re pulling out.”

MacKay also raised concern about the Trudeau government’s plans for electoral reform as well as the future of the Energy East pipeline amid news the mayor of Montreal is officially opposed to the project.

MacKay did not seek re-election during the fall federal election, citing a desire to focus on his young family.

He is widely considered to be a leadership contender for the federal Conservative party and has publicly stated he’s not ruling out throwing his hat in the race.

His “rally the troops” speech in P.E.I. Friday evening only helped to fan the rumours of his potential candidacy for leadership.

“We have to present our party federally and provincially, as ready to govern again and to get back to what matters most, and that’s connecting with Canadians — not with sunny ways — but with practical and important policies that lead to the type of changes that will impact directly on people’s day-to-day lives,” MacKay said.

But if he is considering another stab at politics, it appears it may not be in the near future.

On Monday, MacKay announced he will join the global law firm of Baker & McKenzie as a partner in Toronto, expecting to advise on a range of matters, including government and regulatory enforcement and compliance matters.