Top Canadian minister to announces he's leaving politics

AP News
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Posted: May 29, 2015 5:07 PM

TORONTO (AP) — Another prominent member of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government will not seek re-election in Parliament in October.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay, a former foreign affairs minister and defense minister, announced Friday he'll step aside to spend more time with his young family. He's expecting a second child.

Harper called MacKay an outstanding public servant, a great person and a historic figure.

MacKay and Harper were instrumental in uniting the right in Canada in 2003. MacKay was leader of the Progressive Conservative party before it merged with the Alliance party to create the Conservative Party of Canada with Harper as leader.

"That was an important moment and it changed the course of Canadian politics," Harper said.

MacKay, who turns 50 this year, has helped Harper nudge a liberal-leaning country further to the right.

MacKay said he'll work in the private sector but opened the door to returning to politics. He's long been considered a candidate to one day replace Harper. "My father said, 'never lock a door when you leave if you don't have to,'" MacKay said. "Sage advice."

The news comes after foreign minister John Baird unexpectedly announced he was leaving politics in February.

Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor, said MacKay leaving is a blow to the Conservatives, who have been in power since 2006.

"The signal it sends, MacKay leaving after Baird, is that they are bailing," Wiseman said. "They see the writing on the wall. It's not going to be a majority Conservative victory. The likelihood of that is not great."

Harper's government has a majority of the seats in Parliament but Wiseman predicts that will change in October's elections. It is widely expected to be Harper's last campaign.

"Both MacKay and Baird have been in politics since they were pups. They both had senior positions, both foreign affairs ministers, and that opens up all kinds of corporate doors," Wiseman said.

MacKay is also known for creating the Halifax International Security Forum, an annual forum in his home province whose participants include defense ministers and security officials from around the world.

Harper joked about the first time he met MacKay in 1997 when Harper was out of office at the time and MacKay was first elected.

"I met the young Peter, sexiest male Member of Parliament. It didn't bother me. Personally I could never see it," Harper joked. "I always told him a good bachelor life is no match for a good married life, a good family life. I told Peter to make sure he didn't miss out on that."