Peter MacKay's exit from federal politics will make the Harper government less progressive, a former Conservative MP says.
Bill Casey, who served with MacKay in the Progressive Conservative caucus before the party merged with the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance in 2003, shared a statement Friday shortly after news broke that the justice minister won't be running again.
Casey, who is slated to run for the Liberals in Nova Scotia this fall, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus in 2007 for voting against the budget.
The former MP noted that MacKay's departure means all of the PC MPs serving at the time of the merger that created the modern Conservative party have either been defeated or expelled, have retired, or aren't running again.
"Peter was the last of the original PCs serving at the time of the merger," Casey said in the release. "The only members remaining from the merger in the Harper Government are all former Reform Party MPs. There are no Progressive Conservatives."
Gerald Keddy, Greg Kerr, and Gary Schellenberger, all PC MPs at the time of the union with the Alliance, have each announced they won't be running again.
"The Harper government will miss the progressive voice of Peter MacKay at the table," Casey said, adding he wishes his former colleague well with his growing family.
However, there are still two former PC MPs sitting in cabinet. Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt served in the PC governments of Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell. They were defeated in the 1993 election that saw the party plummet from 156 seats to two.
Nicholson returned to federal politics in 2004, and Valcourt made his comeback in 2011. Nicholson has announced he will run again this year.
MacKay Played Crucial, Controversial Role In 'Uniting The Right'
MacKay served as the last leader of the federal PC party. He won the leadership in 2003 after signing a deal with candidate David Orchard to not merge the party with the Alliance, the successor to the more right-wing and socially conservative Reform Party of Canada.
Yet, months after his win, MacKay and Harper announced an agreement to "unite the right" under one political banner.
"Our swords will henceforth be pointed at the Liberals, not at each other," Harper said at the time.
PC and Alliance members overwhelmingly agreed to the merger, but MacKay's decision angered Orchard and some other party stalwarts.
Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, who ran against MacKay for the PC leadership, soon crossed the floor to the Liberals. Former PC leader Joe Clark refused to sit as a member of the new party and even endorsed the Liberals to win the 2004 election.
MacKay did not run against Harper for the leadership of the united Conservative party in March, 2004.
Since coming to power in 2006, federal Conservatives have promoted the achievements of past PC governments as a part of their legacy, celebrating Tory icons like John A. MacDonald and John Diefenbaker.
On their party website, Conservatives describe themselves as "Canada's founding party."
However, old PC and Reform/Alliance divisions have occasionally bubbled to the surface, particularly on the matter of party leadership rules.
When the parties merged, PCs insisted each riding have an equal say in leadership votes to ensure regions with huge numbers of members, in western Canada for example, could not swamp other regions where riding associations are smaller.
However, some in the party — like rumoured leadership aspirant and former Reform MP Jason Kenney — prefer a one-member, one-vote system.
Before the 2013 Conservative convention, MacKay said he would consider leaving the party if the leadership rules changed.
"It would be a very different party with a very different future," he told the National Post.
Conservative party members ultimately voted to keep leadership rules as is.
MacKay is also believed to harbour ambitions to replace Harper someday.
With files from The Canadian Press
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