Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada in Nova Scotia

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, after delivering remarks at a press conference in Nova Scotia.

Stellarton, Nova Scotia
29 May 2015

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper today delivered the following remarks in Stellarton, Nova Scotia:

“Well thank you very much everyone.

“Peter, Nazanin, family, mother MacKay.

“Colleagues, Member of Parliament Scott Armstrong, thanks for joining us.

“I’ve heard Senator McInnis was here – there he is – Senator, good to see you.

“Members of the riding association, ladies and gentlemen, friends.

“In a few moments your Member of Parliament, Peter, will be making an announcement about his future plans.

“I think some of you might have an inkling about what he’s going to say.

“Anyway, I’m going to try to not pre-empt Peter’s remarks.

“But I don’t mind telling you that I’m here in a reflective state of mind, a mixture of tremendous pride and more than just a little bit of sorrow.

“To introduce Peter three ways: Peter MacKay is an outstanding public servant, Peter MacKay is a great person, and Peter MacKay is a historic figure.

“Now I just want to talk for a few moments about each one of those three things.

“You know about the outstanding public servant.

“For 18 years, Peter has served the fine people of Central Nova through thick and thin, doing day in and day out all this riding could ask of him.

“And he’s had his hands full.

“For part of that period, Peter was Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, making the many decisions of an organization that plays a vital role in the economic life of this important part of our great country.

“But, of course, Peter has also been an outstanding public servant on the national stage.

“Indeed, over the past nine and a half years, he has held some of the most important executive positions in the Government of Canada, successively Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

“And he has been critical to shaping transformations in each of these areas.

“In Foreign Affairs, he led a reorientation of policy to boldly assert Canada’s interests and to project Canada’s values, to take clear, sometimes tough, principled stands, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends, and to stand up to those who threaten them and us.

“At National Defence, Peter MacKay was the second-longest serving Minister in Canadian history, overseeing the re-equipping of the Canadian Armed Forces after the ‘Decade of Darkness,’ the re-emergence of the Canadian military as a player in global security, and the restoration of the status of our men and women in uniform as members of our greatest national institution.

“And of course, long before he became Minister of Justice, Peter was a voice for profound change in our system of criminal justice, to make criminal justice once again about more than the criminal, to make it about law-abiding citizens, their property and their families and, especially, to make it about victims of criminal acts.

“And I know that among his many achievements, Peter will consider passage, this year, of the Victims Bill of Rights as among his most cherished.

“And that leads me to Peter MacKay the person, a great person.

“Peter’s passion for criminal justice reform has been more than just a policy passion; it has been all about people.

“I have seen it up close.

“Peter has long been involved in and close to those who have sought criminal justice reform.

“Because he cares deeply about the police officers and law-enforcement officials who get so little thanks but keep us secure.

“Because he cares about the families who seek only safe streets and communities. 

“And most of all, because he cares and has been close to those who have been crime’s worst victims and those working hard to see them better treated.

“As I said, I’ve seen this up close many times.

“Just as I have seen, many times, how much Peter is liked and admired by those who have worked with him, especially by his colleagues, his Parliamentary colleagues.

“They may from time to time disagree with him, maybe even occasionally get mad at him, but they also know Peter cares about them and does his best for them; a ‘team guy,’ in the deepest sense of the term.

“One of Peter’s passions for people has been his long involvement, probably not realized by most, in the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“Now, that’s not the Peter MacKay I first heard about in Ottawa.

“When I first met Peter – and I suspect he doesn’t even remember that meeting, I was out of Parliament, for good I thought, and he had been elected for the first time not long before – anyway I met the young Peter MacKay, ‘sexiest male MP’ and all that.

“It didn’t bother me; personally I could never see it.

“Anyway, Peter can confirm this though – this is much later when we became colleagues – Peter can confirm this, we talked about it more than once in my office, and I always told him a good bachelor life is no match for a good married life, and no match for a good family life.

“I told Peter to make sure he didn’t miss out on that, and I told him that he would be good at it.

“And how did I know that?

“Not just because of his role in Big Brothers.

“But because I saw it.

“I saw how in the relationship he struck up with my son Ben, when Ben was just a young boy.

“Now Peter probably doesn’t really appreciate the impression he made on Ben, but after spending a few times together, for a long time with Ben it was just ‘Peter MacKay this; Peter MacKay that’ all the time – so much for Dad the Prime Minister – it was all about Peter MacKay, like the big brother he never had.

“It was wonderful to see.

“But what’s even better is to see Nazanin and little Kian, and a sibling to come.

“Wonderful to see even though I knew down deep that it would lead to tonight, when no matter how much you enjoy being part of this great ride we are on, the time comes when you want to get off, even though, because this ride never actually stops, getting off is never easy.

“But friends when that time comes, Peter MacKay will be seen for what he is: a historic figure.

“For, my friends, when we created the new Conservative Party of Canada nearly 12 years ago, there were two signatures on that agreement: my own and Peter’s.

“That moment in October 2003 changed, without a shadow of a doubt, the course of Canadian politics.

“It took a sense of destiny; it took a spirit of humility; and it took a willingness to compromise.

“These were difficult decisions.

“Truthfully, for reasons I won’t revisit, more difficult on Peter’s side of the ledger than on mine, but difficult for both of us.

“Certain policies, certain structures that seemed so important then, had to be set aside.

“And frankly, they really don’t seem so important now anyway, because we all know how different the future turned out.

“Who remembers Paul Martin’s 250-seat-majority government?

“Considered a foregone conclusion in September 2003.

“So as a good Atlantic Canadian, as two guys descended from good Atlantic Canadians, we had to be able to read the waters, to see that a tide was running which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, to success, and that if we missed it, to pursue Shakespeare’s famous statement, the voyage of all of our lives – the lives of all Canada’s conservatives – would have been bound in shallows and miseries.

“Peter recognized that moment.

“And because he did, hundreds of thousands of Canadians were united from coast to coast to coast and were able to elect three times a strong, stable, national – and eventually – majority Conservative government.

“And it has made all the difference in so many things.

“I’ve already talked about the things Peter himself has led.

“There have been many things; big things, little things.

“Big things: I think about a world, the world we’re in now, where so many governments are spiralling down in debt, service cuts and tax hikes, but where in Canada we have a balanced budget, new investments, and tax breaks that put money into the pockets of our hard-working families and senior citizens.

“And little things: like we can pay for some advertising to make sure Canadian families and seniors get those benefits, and know that the money will actually be spent on advertising.

“It wasn’t like that back in 2003.

“Since then, Peter and I, all of us, here in the room and many other rooms like it across the country, we have travelled far together, symbolized by this united party, by Peter’s wonderful young family, and by this great country, the best in the world, better than ever before.

“Thank you, Peter, for your leadership, for your contributions, and for your friendship.

“Now, I have to leave Peter some things to say.

“So dear friends, please join me in welcoming to the podium Nova Scotia’s most distinguished son, one of Canada’s great Conservatives, your Member of Parliament, Peter MacKay.”