POLITICS

Peter MacKay Not Seeking Re-Election, Remains A High-Profile Justice Minister

07/24/2015 07:13 EDT | Updated 07/24/2016 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX — Canada's high-profile justice minister isn't running for re-election, but Peter MacKay is showing no signs of slowing down as a party workhorse, making three campaign-style whistle stops Friday in Halifax.

The Nova Scotia MP was busy much of the day doling out federal funds with Nova Scotia caucus colleague Scott Anderson, who attended the first two events.

In the morning, the pair announced the federal government would spend more than $20 million on several renovation projects at historic sites in the Halifax area.

When asked about the prolonged nature of the pre-election campaign leading up to the federal vote in October, MacKay responded: "I don't know that we're having one."

He followed up by noting he made three announcements just the other day, including $1.6-million in funding for water upgrades in his riding.

"We're not in a campaign," he said.

On Monday, Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre drew criticism for wearing a Conservative Party golf shirt when he announced increased child care benefits in Halifax. The opposition said his decision to display the Tory logo on his chest transformed the event into crass electioneering.

On Friday afternoon, MacKay announced the federal government is giving nearly $900,000 to Saint Mary's University in Halifax to help graduates find jobs and to improve the business climate in Nova Scotia.

During the event at the school, Armstrong took the opportunity to remind the audience - many of them students - about the Conservatives' newly enhanced child care benefits.

Later, the minister announced a $54-million program to support the implementation of the new Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which came into force Thursday.

No Conservative logos were evident at either event.

MacKay announced May 29 that he wouldn't seek re-election in Central Nova, which has been a Tory stronghold since the 1970s.

The former Crown attorney has held the riding — redrawn in 2004 — since 1997. His father Elmer held the seat from 1971 until 1993, except in 1983-84 when he stepped aside to let Brian Mulroney contest the seat in a byelection. In the 2011 election, MacKay won by more than 12,000 votes.

Now that the senior cabinet minister is leaving politics, pundits say the Tories will be facing long odds in Nova Scotia, where Conservative MPs Gerald Keddy and Greg Kerr have already announced they are not seeking re-election.

Armstrong, whose riding is next to MacKay's, is the only Tory incumbent running again in the province.

He will be squaring off against well-known Liberal candidate Bill Casey, who served in the Tory caucus with MacKay until he was expelled in 2007 for voting against the Conservatives' budget.

Earlier this month, MacKay admitted that with Prime Minister Stephen Harper seeking his fourth mandate in nine years, voters could be growing weary of Tory rule.

"There's no question that any time a government has been in power for almost a decade there is an inevitable feeling of 'Well, let's try something new,''' he said.

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