Peter MacKay says he won’t run in the next federal election

Former Conservative leadership contender and cabinet minister Peter MacKay says he will not seek a seat in the House of Commons whenever the next federal election is called. 

“After spending almost nine months as a leadership candidate in the middle of this pandemic, much of it away from my family and full time job, my focus must be to return to both,” MacKay said in a statement.

The former defence minister thanked his family and supporters from Central Nova for backing him in past campaigns for Parliament and for the leadership of his party.

“I am forever grateful to the countless Canadians across the country who gave their time, energy and finances to support both me and the Conservative Party during the recent extended leadership campaign,” he said. 

MacKay said he will do everything he can to ensure that Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole becomes the next prime minister and he looks “forward to working with all Conservatives, as I have for the last 40 years, to defeat this Liberal government.”

O’Toole issued a statement thanking MacKay for his “decades of commitment to our country and to the party.”

“Rebecca and I, on behalf of all members of our Conservative family, send our warmest best wishes to Peter, [his wife] Nazanin and their children as they move forward with the next chapter in their professional and family life,”  O’Toole said. 

Last month, MacKay said he was still considering a run for Parliament — a move that would have made it easier for him to pay off nearly $1 million in debts from his leadership run. 

MacKay told CBC that while he needs to retire “close to” $1 million in debt, he hoped to cut down the total through negotiations with vendors. He said the total would be well below $1 million when all the calculations are complete.

He insisted he would be well-positioned to pay off his debts by the new year.

A lost opportunity

In a long and wide-ranging interview with The Canadian Press in September, MacKay said that while the post-mortem of his second-place finish in the Conservative leadership contest was still underway, several factors were evident. 

The pause forced by the COVID-19 pandemic stopped MacKay’s early momentum, and a decision by party organizers to extend the deadline for membership sales gave his rivals time to catch up. He also cited “ring rust” from being out of politics for five years and the immense reach of social media in amplifying minor errors.

But he also acknowledged that the premise upon which he ran his campaign was flawed. 

“The plan was in retrospect too much focused on the next steps and not enough on winning the party,” MacKay said.