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Peter MacKay's Story
Peter MacKay was born on September 27, 1965, in a modest home on Temperance Street in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, the second of four children of Elmer and Macha MacKay. His father was a descendant of Highland Scots whose family ran sawmills and worked in the woods. His mother was born in the UK to Irish parents who immigrated to Canada after WWII. Her father was a commander in the Royal Navy who served in both wars and retired to farm blueberries and apples in the Annapolis Valley.
Peter received his primary education near the family farm in Lorne, Pictou County, in a one-room schoolhouse with no running water and a wood stove. There were only two other students in his grade in a school of 30 students.
His father served in Parliament for 22 years. Following a divorce when Peter was eight years old, his mother earned a master’s degree in psychology. She re-entered the workforce to pursue her passion for international justice and issues of women’s health, all while raising Peter and his siblings.
Peter earned a reputation as a mucker and grinder who toughed it out on pitches, rinks and in life. Rugby was his game of choice. He worked at a gas station while in high school and spent summers on the family farm, tree planting and raking blueberries. He also worked as a linesman and a stevedore on supply ships to the High Arctic.
After graduating from Acadia University and Dalhousie Law School, Peter was called to the bar in 1991. He established a law practice above a local pizzeria in his hometown as a general practitioner and public defender.
After witnessing the devastation caused by crime to his community, and in the aftermath of the Westray Mine explosion that rocked the community and took 26 lives, he joined the Crown Attorney's office in the central district.
Peter’s personal views on criminal justice, fiscal responsibility, family values and free enterprise confirmed his politics as solidly conservative.
Frustration with the criminal justice system and the absence of victims’ rights drove him to elected politics to seek change in the system in which he worked.
He won a hotly contested nomination in 1997 in Central-Nova, with over five thousand party members held in a local arena.
Peter became House Leader and justice critic, among other roles in the PC Party. He was jarred by the acrimony between the two competing Conservative parties in Parliament. While in French language training in Quebec, he met and befriended Reform MP Monte Solberg. Realizing they and many members of both parties saw eye-to-eye on key issues, it became evident to Peter that the unification of the conservative movement was in Canada’s best interests.
Peter won the leadership of the PC Party in 2003 and shortly afterwards reached out to Stephen Harper and said, “We need to talk.” They set in motion a series of negotiations that ultimately achieved a historic agreement on uniting the conservative movement on October 15, 2003.
Facing high profile resistance within his party, Peter embarked on a massive democratic consultation with elected members, senators, national council, and the presidents of every riding association. Peter won a ratification vote of the entire membership with over 90 per cent support. Asked by the media why he surrendered his leadership just before the general election, he replied, “I did it for Canada - democracy needs a competitive alternative.”
Peter served in the Harper cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Minister of National Defence, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General. He led a values-based foreign policy that called out terrorist organizations and fortified relations with like-minded countries. He was a fierce advocate for our soldiers in uniform, going to Afghanistan 19 times. He presided over a massive recapitalization of military equipment and heightened the esprit de corps of the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. He founded the highly acclaimed Halifax International Security Forum and implemented sweeping reforms to our criminal justice system, including the introduction of a Victims Bill of Rights and tougher mandatory sentences for violent offenders and those who prey on children.
At the age of 49, after 18 years as an MP, with a young son and a second child on the way and an ailing mother, Peter told his constituents he would not run in 2015. Stephen Harper went to Stellarton, Nova Scotia and called Peter a historic figure who changed the course of Canadian politics: “It took a sense of destiny, it took a spirit of humility and a willingness to compromise.”
Peter returned to the profession of law and joined Baker Mackenzie in 2016.
Peter has supported local and national causes on many levels. He is co-chair of Boost-Child Youth Advocacy Centre and serves on the board of Special Olympics Canada and Wounded Warriors Canada. He volunteers his time with Children's Aid Society, Covenant House, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Acadia and Dalhousie Universities, and the Canada-United States Law Institute.
On January 4, 2012, Peter and Nazanin Afshin-Jam were married. Nazanin is an award-winning international human rights activist, author, former singer/songwriter and Miss World Canada. She has a BA in international relations and political science and Master of Arts in diplomacy.
Her family immigrated to Canada from Iran where her father had been jailed and tortured by the Revolutionary Guard in 1979. This motivated Nazanin to pursue humanitarian issues and fight injustice as a human rights activist including co-founding Stop Child Executions.
Peter and Nazanin are the loving parents of two boys and a girl: Kian (7), Valentia (4) and Caledon (1).
Peter MacKay is a proud Canadian from Nova Scotia who feels at home and is welcomed in every part of the country.