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The Honourable
Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice
Assumed office
July 15, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Rob Nicholson
Minister of National Defence

In office
August 14, 2007 – July 15, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Gordon O'Connor
Succeeded by Rob Nicholson
Minister of Foreign Affairs

In office
February 6, 2006 – August 14, 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Pierre Pettigrew
Succeeded by Maxime Bernier
Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

In office
February 6, 2006 – January 19, 2010
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Joe McGuire
Succeeded by Keith Ashfield
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party

In office
May 31, 2003 – December 6, 2003
Preceded by Joe Clark
Succeeded by John Lynch-Staunton (Acting Leader of the Conservative Party)
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Central Nova
Assumed office
June 28, 2004
Preceded by Constituency established
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough

In office
June 2, 1997 – June 28, 2004
Preceded by Roseanne Skoke
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party
Assumed office
March 22, 2004
Preceded by Position established
Personal details
Born Peter Gordon MacKay
September 27, 1965(1965-09-27) (age 57)
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
Political party Conservative Party (2003–present)
Other political
Progressive Conservative Party (1997–2003)
Spouse(s) Nazanin Afshin-Jam (m. 2012)
Children Kian Alexander (b. 2013)
Residence Lorne, Nova Scotia
Alma mater Acadia University
Carleton University
Dalhousie University
Profession Crown attorney

Peter Gordon MacKay, PC, QC, MP (born September 27, 1965) is a lawyer and politician from Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the Member of Parliament for Central Nova and current Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the Cabinet of Canada. He is married to Nazanin Afshin-Jam an Iranian-Canadian model, singer, and human rights activist, and a former Miss World Canada.

MacKay was the final leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC Party). On October 15, 2003, he and Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper agreed to merge the two parties, forming the Conservative Party of Canada. In December 2003, members of both parties ratified the merger.

Early life and career

MacKay was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. His father, Elmer MacKay, is a former PC cabinet minister, lumber businessman, and lawyer. His mother, Macha MacKay (née Delap), is a psychologist and peace activist; through her, MacKay is descended from James Alexander, 3rd Earl of Caledon and James Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam.[1][2][3][4] MacKay grew up in Wolfville, Nova Scotia with his three siblings. He graduated from Horton High School (Nova Scotia)|Horton High School in Greenwich, Nova Scotia, and then went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Acadia University/Carleton University in 1987, MacKay then studied Law at Dalhousie University[5] and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in June 1991. He worked for Thyssen Henschel, steel producer, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in Düsseldorf and Kassel, Germany.

In 1993, MacKay accepted an appointment as Crown Attorney for the Central Region of Nova Scotia. He prosecuted cases at all levels, including youth and provincial courts as well as the Supreme Court of Canada. MacKay has publicly stated that the major impetus for his entry into federal politics was his frustrations with the shortcomings in the justice system, particularly his perception that the courts do not care about the impact crime has on victims.

Member of Parliament

Peter MacKay speaking in Brazil, 2007.

MacKay was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the June 2, 1997 federal election for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, a riding in northeastern Nova Scotia.[6] He was one of a handful of newly elected "Young Turk" PC MPs (including John Herron, André Bachand and Scott Brison), who were under 35 years old when elected and were considered the future leadership material that might restore the ailing Tories to their glory days. In his first term of office, MacKay served as Justice Critic and House Leader for the Progressive Conservative parliamentary caucus. MacKay was the PC member of the Board of Internal Economy and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He also acted as an associate member of the Standing Committees on Canadian Heritage, Finance and the sub-committee on the Study of Sport.

MacKay was re-elected in the 2000 federal election and was frequently touted by the media as a possible successor to PC Party leader Joe Clark. Many of his initial supporters referred to his strong performances in the House of Commons and magnetism as key attributes that would make him a popular leader. MacKay has been voted the "sexiest male MP in the House of Commons" by the Hill Times (a Parliament Hill newspaper) for six years in a row. When asked in a 2001 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on the resurgence of the PC Party if he would ever consider running for the PC leadership, MacKay quipped, "If there's one thing I've learned in politics it's 'never say never.' Jean Charest taught me that."

In August 2001, he was one of several PC MPs to engage in open cooperation talks with disaffected Canadian Alliance MPs in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. Eventually a union of sorts was created between the PCs and the newly formed Democratic Representative Caucus (DRC). MacKay was appointed House Leader of the new PC-DR Parliamentary Coalition Caucus when it was formally recognized as a political body on September 10, 2001. The PC-DR initiative collapsed in April 2002, raising questions about Clark's leadership. Clark announced his impending resignation as party leader at the PC Party's bi-annual convention held in Edmonton, Alberta in August 2002. MacKay's name was one of the first to be raised as a possible leadership contender.

2003 leadership race

MacKay was largely seen as the assumed victor of the race from the outset of the leadership contest. Ultimately, his candidacy was helped by the absence of so-called "dream candidates" such as provincial Progressive Conservative Premiers Bernard Lord, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein who did not run for the leadership.[citation needed] MacKay formally launched his leadership campaign in his hometown of New Glasgow in January 2003. From the onset of the campaign, MacKay insisted that his primary goal upon assuming the leadership would be the rebuilding the fractured conservative movement from within the PC tent. For much of the race, MacKay was the clear front-runner. Several opponents, including former PC Party Treasurer Jim Prentice, social conservative candidate Craig Chandler, and Red Tory Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, painted MacKay as a status quo or "establishment" candidate who could effectively question the Prime Minister.[citation needed]

MacKay's campaign was largely based on his leadership skills and a national organization rather than on policies or new directions. MacKay is largely viewed by political analysts as a Blue Tory.[citation needed] While his fiscal conservatism has never been questioned, he remains ambiguously unsupportive of social issues such as same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana, which alienated him somewhat from the influential Red Tory wing of the PC Party.[citation needed] MacKay generally takes a pro-American view towards foreign policy issues.[citation needed]

Convention and controversy

MacKay entered the first ballot of the PC leadership convention held on May 31, 2003 with roughly 41% of the delegates supporting him. However, on the second ballot, MacKay's support dropped to 39%. On the third ballot, MacKay's support reached 45% but many of his supporters were convinced that he had hit his popular peak. Some analysts noted that the eliminated third-place challenger David Orchard drew his 25% bulk of delegate supporters largely from the Western prairie provinces. Orchard was prepared to speak with either MacKay or Prentice to determine if a deal could be reached over some of the issues that he raised during the leadership campaign. As the results of the third ballot were called, MacKay's campaign manager, PC Senator Noël Kinsella, hastily arranged a backroom meeting between MacKay, Orchard, and their campaign advisors. During the meeting, MacKay reached a deal with his rival, and Orchard emerged from the room urging his delegates to support MacKay. Press officials immediately demanded to know what had inspired Orchard's surprise move. Orchard repeatedly referred to a "gentleman's agreement" made between himself and MacKay that had led to his qualified support.

MacKay won the final ballot with nearly 65% of the delegates supporting him. For the next few weeks, the specific details of the "Orchard deal" remained vague: a secret between MacKay, Orchard, and their advisors.[7] However, it was eventually revealed that the "Orchard deal" promised a review of the PC Party's policies on the North American Free Trade Agreement, no merger or joint candidates with the Canadian Alliance, and a promise to redouble efforts to rebuild the national status of the Progressive Conservative Party.[citation needed] The agreement also included re-examining the PC Party's policies on government subsidies for national railways and preserving the environment. The deal also requested that MacKay "clean up" the party's head office and specifically requested that the party's National Director be fired. Further evidence later revealed Scott Brison's cellphone number written in the margins of the note for some unexplained reason. In an attempt to heal internal rifts after the convention, MacKay edited out the number. After Brison defected to the Liberal party, however, MacKay revealed the original copy. The agreement prompted much outrage and controversy amongst United Alternative supporters and was ribaldly referred to by CA MP Jason Kenney as "a deal with the Devil"[citation needed].

At first, MacKay seemed to be willing to adhere to the deal. In June, several Clark-appointed personnel were let go from the party's main office and MacKay appointed new experienced staff whose loyalties were more closely linked to himself and former Prime Minister and PC Party leader Brian Mulroney. MacKay also appointed a couple of low level staff workers who had been supportive of David Orchard's leadership bid. In July, MacKay struck up a "Blue Ribbon PC Policy Review Panel", made up of conservative MPs, Senators, and Orchard himself, that was to be chaired by MP Bill Casey, in order to reexamine the party's policies on NAFTA. The Committee was scheduled to hold talks across the country and make a report to the leader by January 2004.[citation needed]

By mid-July, political opponents and fellow Tories began attacking MacKay over the "Orchard deal." MacKay's conservative rival Stephen Harper suggested that the PC Party had hit rock-bottom when its policies and directions would be beholden to a "prairie socialist."[citation needed] The secretive nature of the deal also led to concerns from within the party's headquarters and constituency associations. David Orchard was seen by many within the party as an "outsider" who was attempting to turn the Progressive Conservative Party into the "Prairie Co-operative Party". Some such as Rex Murphy, who is clearly noted below, felt that MacKay's credibility and leadership were undermined by the deal and that electoral expectations were low for the upcoming election that was expected to occur in less than a year's time. Rex Murphy noted in a $3 column that MacKay's leadership arrived "stillborn" and that, perhaps for the first time in recent memory, a party immediately emerged from a leadership convention grievously weakened and even less united than when it entered the convention.[citation needed]

Conservative party merger

Peter MacKay in 2007.

Public musings that the divided PCs would be marginalized in a future election between a relatively stable western-based CA under Stephen Harper and the massively popular Paul Martin Liberals (although Jean Chrétien remained the Liberal leader until November 2003, he had announced he would not run again), MacKay encouraged talks between high-profile members of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.

On October 15, 2003, the merger talks culminated in MacKay and Alliance leader Stephen Harper signing an Agreement in Principle on the establishment of the Conservative Party of Canada, whereby the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance would merge to form a new Conservative Party of Canada. While MacKay was roundly criticized in some Red Tory circles for permitting a union under his watch, MacKay's efforts to sell the merger to the PC membership were successful: 90.4% of the party's elected delegates supported the deal in a vote on December 6, 2003.[citation needed]

Some PC caucus members refused to accept the merger: long-time MP and former Prime Minister Joe Clark continued to sit as a "Progressive Conservative" for the remainder of the Parliament, as did MPs John Herron and André Bachand, while Scott Brison left the new party to join the Liberal Party in December 2003. In January 2004, several Senators left the party to sit as independents or "Progressive Conservatives". MacKay announced on January 13, 2004, that he would not run for the leadership of the new Conservative Party. On March 22, he was named deputy leader of the new party by newly elected leader Stephen Harper. He was easily re-elected in the June 28, 2004 federal election in the newly redistributed riding of Central Nova.[citation needed]

On September 29, 2005, the Premier of Nova Scotia, John Hamm, announced his intention to resign. There was speculation that MacKay would return to the province to pursue provincial politics and enter the Progressive Conservative Association of Nova Scotia leadership race to become the Premier. MacKay would have been considered a front-runner in the race, however, he decided to remain with the Federal Conservatives. The Liberal government lost a motion of non-confidence on November 28, 2005. In the resulting January 2006 election, the Conservative Party was elected with a minority government. He did retain his seat by a comfortable margin against NDP candidate Alexis MacDonald.[citation needed]


Minister of Foreign Affairs

Peter MacKay arrives at Rideau Hall to be sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

MacKay with Condoleezza Rice and Patricia Espinosa

Following the Conservative victory in the 2006 election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named MacKay as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; he was also tasked to be the political minister for both his home province, and for neighbouring Prince Edward Island, just as his father Elmer had done between 1988 and 1993.[citation needed]

During the first mandate, his biggest issue was the Lebanon–Israel–Hezbollah crisis that occurred in July 2006. The government decided to evacuate thousands of Canadians from Lebanon to safer locations and many back to Canada. MacKay responded to critics saying that the process was slow, that the boats (those which were used to evacuate) had limited capacity. MacKay's statements in support of the Israeli during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict created a national debate in Canada, especially among Arabs and Muslim Canadians who opposed MacKay's position. During this period MacKay and the Conservative Party of Canada joined the Bush Administration in opposing the United Nations' call for a ceasefire. It was also during this period that MacKay made a controversial statement in which he referred to Hezbollah as a "cancer" in Lebanon.[8] Hezbollah is formally recognized by the government of Canada as a terrorist organization.[9]

Minister of National Defence

Peter MacKay meeting with Condoleezza Rice, April 13, 2006.

On August 14, 2007, Stephen Harper shuffled MacKay from Foreign Affairs to Defence, replacing Gordon O'Connor. On November 6, 2007, while attending a meeting at Forward Operating Base Wilson, 20 kilometres west of Kandahar City, Mackay was unharmed as two rockets struck the base at about 11 a.m. local time. Mackay described the incident: "There was an explosion. It was a loud bang", said MacKay. "When it happened, we heard the explosion, we heard the whistle overhead, we were told to get down and we did."[10] The incident happened on the same day that a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in Baghlan in the northeastern part of the country killing at least 35 including several politicians. While Taliban insurgents were suspected of being behind the bombing, it was not believed to be related to the attack in Kandahar.[11]

MacKay with US Senator John McCain and Colombian Minister of National Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno at the Halifax International Security Forum 2012

In 2008, MacKay announced a broad exhaustive and very expensive program to upgrade the Canadian military's equipment, spending over $400 billion over 25 years. Unlike every previous spending announcement of its kind, no "white paper" or detailed breakdown of this number was available nor was any claimed to exist. This led to widespread speculation that an election was coming. Stephen Harper did in fact declare Parliament "dysfunctional" in August 2008 and called on Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean to dissolve parliament for the 2008 federal election. The opposition objected but did not offer to form another government.

In July 2010, MacKay was involved in a scandal that involved the use of a Canadian Cormorant military helicopter in order to ferry the minister from a private fishing camp in Newfoundland to Gander Airport. The cost of this to taxpayers was approximately $16,000.[12]

On June 5, 2012, it was revealed that a widely publicized 2010 news conference announcing Conservative plans to buy 65 F-35 Stealth Fighters had cost $47,000. Documents provided to parliament by Peter Mackay indicated that Lockheed Martin had delivered the F-35 mockup used in the photo-op for free, and that the cost was primarily for services to support the news conference and one hundred invited guests.[13]

Minister of Justice

On July 15, 2013, the cabinet was shuffled, and Mackay became the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, replacing Rob Nicholson, who took over the defence portfolio.[14]

2011 election

MacKay in 2011.

During the 2011 election, MacKay retained his seat with some 56% of the vote. The Conservative Party of Canada won the election, gaining a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.

Personal life

MacKay was chosen as 'Canada's Sexiest Male MP' by The Hill Times from 1999–2007 and 2009, coming in second in 2008 to Maxime Bernier. His former longtime girlfriend was Lisa Michelle Merrithew, daughter of former Mulroney cabinet minister Gerald Merrithew. They reportedly ended their relationship in 2004. He then was romantically linked to fellow MP Belinda Stronach in published reports. In an interview in the Toronto Star on January 8, 2005, Stronach confirmed that she and MacKay were dating. Stronach, elected as a Conservative in the 2004 election, crossed the floor to the Liberal Party on May 17, 2005. On May 18, 2005, MacKay told the CBC that his relationship with Stronach was indeed over, and that it had come as a surprise to him that she had crossed the floor. According to Don Martin, a National Post columnist who wrote a biography, Belinda: the Political and Private Life of Belinda Stronach in September 2006, MacKay reacted "with volcanic fury" when he learned about her defection.[15]

On October 19, 2006, during a debate on the Conservative Party's clean air plan, MP Mark Holland said that a Liberal colleague, David McGuinty asked MacKay about the impact of pollution on humans and animals by asking, "What about your dog?". He was poking fun at MacKay for being photographed on his father's farm with his pet dog, following his break-up with Belinda Stronach. MacKay then allegedly pointed to Stronach's vacant chair and replied "You already have her." Holland lodged a complaint with the Commons Speaker and demanded an apology from MacKay. Stronach has said that the comment was disrespectful to both herself and Canadian women, and has herself asked for an apology. MacKay has denied referring to Stronach as a "dog".[16] The alleged comment was not heard by Speaker of the House Peter Milliken and it was not recorded in the official Hansard. Afterwards, Milliken and his staff said that they could not hear the remarks on the tape recording.[17]

By September 2006, MacKay's romantic life was again in the papers, with The New York Times reporting on gossip about his alleged involvement with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.[18][19] The New York Times described him as "Tall, athletic, young, blond", and having "a tan and the build of someone who spends his time on the rugby field, not holed up reading G-8 communiqués."[18]

MacKay had been seen in public dating Jana Juginovic, director of programming at CTV News Channel, after having kept their relationship private for many months. They attended the annual Black & White Opera Soirée together at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on February 21, 2009.[20] MacKay's engagement to Juginovic was announced on November 1, 2009.[21] MacKay and Juginovic later called off the engagement in June 2010.[22]

On January 4, 2012, MacKay married Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an Iranian-born former beauty queen, in a ceremony in Mexico. Afshin-Jam holds degrees in international relations and political science. She is co-founder and president of Stop Child Executions, a human rights group whose aim is to focus world attention on the plight of young people on death row in Iran.[23] The couple has one son, Kian Alexander MacKay, born April 1, 2013.[24]

In his spare time, MacKay has served on many volunteer boards including New Leaf and Tearmann House. He has also been active in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Pictou County Senior Rugby Club and the YMCA. A sports enthusiast, MacKay is active in local adult rugby, baseball, football and hockey teams in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. He played for the Nova Scotia Keltics rugby union club.


  1. John Demont (2003-05-26). "THE ROAD TO RELEVANCE | — Canada — Features". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  2. Ottawa, The (2008-06-16). "Royal Navy Cmdr. Bredin Delap is the father of Peter MacKay's mother, Macha". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  3. Normandin, A.L.; Pierre G. Normandin (1974). The Canadian parliamentary guide. Normandin. p. 285. "M. July 15, 1961 to dau. of Commander Bradin Delap of Centreville, Kings County, NS; Four children: Cethlyn Laura, Peter Gordon, Sheila Mary Louise and Andrew." 
  4. "Ancestry of Commander Bredin Delap1". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  5. "Peter MacKay ~ Representing Central Nova". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  6. "MacKay carries on family tradition". The Chronicle Herald. June 3, 1997. Archived from the original on February 12, 2001. Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  7. [1][dead link]
  8. "Citytv". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  9. "Currently listed entities". 2011-02-01. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  10. "MacKay unhurt in rocket attack on Afghan base — CTV News". 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  11. "Afghan suicide blast 'kills 40'". BBC News. November 6, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  12. "DND emails reveal new questions over Peter MacKay’s Cormorant helicopter ride to news conference". January 13, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  13. "Cost for MacKay to ‘park his posterior' in F-35 mockup: $47,000". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. June 5, 2012. 
  14. "Harper cabinet shakeup adds new faces". CBC. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  15. CTV News, October 2, 2006, "MacKay was 'furious' at Stronach defection"
  16. "MacKay denies referring to Stronach as a dog". CBC News. 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  17. Stronach demands MacKay apologize for alleged 'dog' comment. CBC News, October 21, 2006. Retrieved March 5, 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 New York Times, September 13, 2006 "Dance of Diplomacy is Grist for the Gossip Mill"
  19. Toronto Star, September 13, 2006 "This has been a lovely trip, Peter"
  20. February 22, 2009 (2009-02-22). "Photo Gallery: The Black and White Opera Soirée". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  21. Happy ending for Defence Minister MacKay? The Toronto Star, November 3, 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  22. Globe and Mail (June 5, 2010). "Peter MacKay, fiancée split up"
  23. Galloway, Gloria (January 4, 2012). Peter MacKay weds rights activist, former beauty queen. Globe and Mail. Retrieved on: 2012-01-04.
  24. CTV News (April 1, 2013). "Defence Minister Peter MacKay announces birth of son Kian Alexander"

External links

Cabinet Posts (4)
Predecessor Office Successor
Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs
Maxime Bernier
Joe McGuire Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Keith Ashfield
Gordon O'Connor Minister of National Defence
Rob Nicholson
Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice

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