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Goodbye and see you soon, Peter MacKay

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Photo: Benjamin J. DeLong/flickr

Is Peter MacKay resigning from federal politics to spend time with his growing greeting-card-perfect family? Or to grease a personal private sector future filled with lucrative corporate board memberships and international consulting gigs, nicely anchored by a 20-year MP's pension worth almost two-and-a-half times the average Canadian salary? Or to jump the listing Harper ship before it disappears below the electoral water line while plotting his eventual political resurrection?

All of the above? He wouldn't be the first: John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin…

So, while it may be premature to pen Peter MacKay's political obituary, it's never too early to assess his accomplishments -- and otherwise -- to date.

First, there is the Conservative Party. MacKay's unprincipled decision to violate a no-merger promise that allowed him to win the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention, then hop into bed with Stephen Harper's far right Reform/Canadian Alliance changed the course of contemporary Canadian politics.

If not for that deal, Harper himself allowed during MacKay's fond farewell Friday, "the lives of all of Canada's conservatives would have been bound in shallows and miseries."

Instead, the more than 60 per cent of us who are not conservative suffered the shallows, miseries… and worse.

During nearly a decade in senior cabinet portfolios -- justice, defence, foreign affairs -- MacKay helped Stephen Harper push what was once our country far to the warriors-not-wimps, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key, either-good-guys-or-terrorists side of the ideological divide.

Worse, he did it clumsily, picking on the veterans his government claimed to venerate while picking un-winnable fights with Supreme Court justices.

MacKay's local legacy -- ACOA appointments scandals, international security conference boondoggles, dangled dollars for questionable mega-projects -- is merely an unwelcome extension of last-century federal pork barrel politics.

The best news about his resignation is that it puts his Central Nova seat -- along with the province's other three Tory ridings -- in legitimate electoral play this fall.

That said, I will miss him. Peter MacKay -- he of Condi confidences, Belinda betrayals, banged-up hearts, borrowed photo-op dogs, hijacked search-and-rescue helicopters, etc. -- was the columnists' gift that kept on giving.

See you soon, Peter.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Benjamin J. DeLong/flickr

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