Why Mackay Shouldn't Bother 

January 1st, 2016 | C. Wang 

mackay conservative

Looks like Peter MacKay is once again the frontrunner for replacing Harper. Lots of people in the Conservative Party like him. Many people throughout Canada like him. I like him. So why not take a run at the top job and kick Justin Trudeau out of his Dad’s desk for good?


There are ten reasons to not bother.


#1. Family


"I find happiness comes from numerous sources in my life. Most often, the happy moments I cherish most are quiet moments with my wife and family back home in Nova Scotia." - Peter MacKay


Peter MacKay stepped down in order to “spend more time with his family”. While many politicians say things like this in order to cover up getting fired or railroaded or disgraced or selling out...most believe MacKay meant it. His political career took precedence over family life for most of his 30’s and 40’s. Luckily he was able to settle down and start a family before it was too late. Now that he’s got it and he’s in a position to enjoy it, why get back to the hustle of politics? He’s really going to miss out on watching his kids grow up in order to walk around in a gay pride parade in Vancouver? He’s going to do “Justin Trudeau is failing” speeches at rubber chicken dinners in Brandon or Windsor? He wants to wake up at the crack of dawn to talk to some random morning show host about the new Conservative Party? It’s all one big glad-handing grind. Does he really want to bother?


MacKay experienced the toll that his father’s political career had on his childhood and if the toll can be avoided comfortably...then why not avoid it comfortably? Enjoy your family...it’ll last longer than a caucus round of applause and it’ll mean more than a portrait hanging in Parliament.


#2. Pension


MacKay was an MP for a long, long time. The gold-plated pensions of federal politics are legendary, even after the Harper cuts. MacKay is set to make $128,000.00 a year beginning at age 55. The guy is 50 now. He could effectively retire in five years and live with a lifestyle that’s more than double what an average earning Canadian experiences. Why not just enjoy the fruits of a pension like that and forget about the hustle of politics?


#3. Private sector is calling


MacKay was a lawyer before politics and he’ll probably go back to lawyering now that he’s out. He’ll probably also leverage his contacts and experience in order to get some lucrative John Baird-style "advisor" or "board member" type jobs.


So he’ll get his $128,000.00 pension plus whatever tremendous private sector work he has waiting for him. This is also whyJean Charest is unlikely to return to politics. I read somewhere he’s making a million a year for whatever law firm he’s working at in Montreal. MacKay could probably do the same with the resume he has.


Would you give up a million dollars a year from a gravy law job in order to put on hip waders and slog through the shit of federal politics at the expense of your family, health and finances?


I wouldn’t.


#4. Justin Trudeau will not be easily beaten


Already the criticisms against the Liberals are building up. Recent headlines have been filled with nanny-gate or missed deficit and refugee targets or whatever. The mud-slinging has started and it won’t end. People who didn’t vote Liberal are twisted up about these things and they think an avalanche of gotcha moments will work in their favour.


Thing is, it probably won’t.


Unless something really big happens, Justin’s Liberals will probably coast to a second mandate. Policy and achievements won’t factor. People genuinely like Justin and that won’t wear off easily. Realistically the Conservative Party is looking to rebuild and maybe reduce the Liberals to minority status in 2019. Does MacKay really want to put in two elections worth of work over the course of his 50’s in hopes of maybe being Prime Minister one day?


#5. Nova Scotia PC Party will soon have an opening


In late 2017, Nova Scotia is likely going to hold an election. The Liberals are likely to win that election. PC leader Jamie Baillie is likely to step down as leader since it will be his second failed attempt. A leadership race will ensue. I wonder who would be interested in leading the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party in 2018?


This would resolve the “spending more time with family” situation and also provide the scratch for any lingering political leadership itch.


#6. Association with the Harper Era


MacKay holds too much Harper baggage.


It will take more than a few years for the Harper era to fade into positive nostalgia. As with any incumbent government that eventually loses, the Conservatives need to break with the past and begin again. Since MacKay was such a strong part of the Harper era, his leadership will be viewed as a Diet Coke version of the real thing. Critics will paint the Conservatives with the same smears they used from 2004-2015. What the Conservative Party needs is a fresh approach with a new face and a new vision.


#7. Peter MacKay is not a visionary


MacKay was a good manager and team player. He was likeable and held a strong grasp of his portfolios. These are his strengths. His weakness was his lack of vision for building something bigger or better. Andrew Coyne wrote this scathing article upon MacKay’s retirement announcement. If you want to save yourself the hassle of reading the whole thing, it can be best summed up with this:


“After 18 unmemorable months at Foreign Affairs, he replaced Gordon O’Connor at National Defence, where he oversaw a string of procurement bungles culminating in the F-35, whose costs the government understated by a factor of five, staving off Parliament’s demands for the real figures just long enough to win re-election.

Then it was off to Justice, where he was responsible for shepherding a number of bills through Parliament that seemed almost designed to be found unconstitutional, even as Justice department lawyers were losing case after case at the Supreme Court.

Other than that, there isn’t a great deal to say.” - Andrew Coyne

Seems pretty harsh, but there’s an element of truth to it. Our military is still troubled and our courts are still mostly leftist. Change came in small doses, but is the new Conservative Party going to win a majority with promises of more small doses?

#8. Brand as a Red Tory


MacKay is branded as a Red Tory amongst the general population. While this could work in his favour for winning the centrist vote in a general election, it will hurt him amongst the card-carrying CPC members that will actually vote in a leadership race. The Reform/Alliance types in the party are the money givers and they want “conservative Conservatives” running the show. MacKay, being seen as a “progressive Conservative”, would be at a disadvantage amongst the more hardcore base.

Is it worth it to spend possibly two years running for leadership and then lose to Jason Kenney or someone perceived to be more conservative?


#9. The David Orchard thing


I won’t recount the whole drama from 12 years ago, but you can refresh your memory with this article from the Globe. The fiasco of the PC leadership race back then still resonates with a lot of people and just raising questions during a new leadership race will undercut what positive qualities MacKay can bring to the table. It’s ammunition that critics will not ignore. They will be dredging up old grievances that need not be dredged up, but it will factor nonetheless. Does MacKay want to have to stand on stage going over this stuff again?


#10. Time for a female leader


Lisa Raitt, Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch are all potential contenders for leadership. Does it matter though? Ken Boessenkool thinks so…


“...gender matters. Fifty years ago it was accepted that leadership in politics was the preserve of men; I believe that leadership in politics today is increasingly the preserve of women.

Think I’m wrong? Tell me the last woman leader of a party in serious contention in a major province that was beaten by a man their first time out. Women rule, whether Conservative or Liberal or NDP. Christy Clark, Alison Redford, Rachel Notley, Kathleen Wynne, Pauline Marois—all won their first election as leader.” - Maclean's Magazine - Oct, 22, 2015

A female face might be able to sell conservatism to the masses with a lighter touch...or at least send a message to women that it’s okay to be right-wing. It worked for Margaret Thatcher.

Peter MacKay has made his public service mark. If he feels the need to get back in the game, then he should serve in Nova Scotia and leave the federal arena for a new generation. It’s not that he’d be a bad candidate, it’s that this chapter of his life is over. Deep down, he knows it, and running for leadership at this point would be like returning to a party ten minutes after saying a long goodbye to everyone before leaving. Enjoy your family and your pension Peter. The PMO is a long way from here and it doesn’t need you.