Peter MacKay begins bid to lead Canada’s Conservative party

FILE – In this Feb. 14, 2015, file photo, Justice Minister Peter MacKay heads from a news conference in Halifax, Canada. Former Canadian Cabinet Minister MacKay criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, as he officially announced he is running to be leader of Canada’s Conservative Party. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

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TORONTO (AP) — Former Canadian Cabinet minister Peter MacKay criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday as he officially announced he is running to be leader of Canada’s Conservative Party.

MacKay served as foreign minister and defense minister in ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. He is widely considered the favorite after other high profile Conservatives declined to run.

The 54-year-old Nova Scotia native stepped down from politics in 2015 just before Harper lost to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

MacKay said Canadians are fed up with phony diplomacy that doesn’t yield results. He said leadership requires diplomacy measured by outcomes and “not selfies or photo opps or dressing up for dancing.”

Trudeau won a second term in Canada’s October elections despite losing the majority in Parliament. It was a strong result for Trudeau following a series of scandals that had tarnished his image as a liberal icon.

“We are in danger of more years of Justin Trudeau, of more years of arrogant and disconnected Liberal governments making life harder for the people they say they want to help,” MacKay said.

As leader of the Progressive Conservative party, MacKay helped form the current Conservative Party of Canada after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Western-based Canadian Alliance in 2003.

Like Trudeau, MacKay is also the son of Canadian politician — his father was a cabinet minister in former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government. Trudeau is the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

MacKay is a trained lawyer and former prosecutor. He was also instrumental in creating the annual Halifax International Security Forum.

Current Conservative leader Andrew Scheer stepped down last month after weeks of infighting following a disappointing performance in October’s election.

MacKay joked that when he told his 6-year-old he was running, his son told him he would vote for him but didn’t know who else was running.

“MacKay may very well get acclaimed,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

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