Canada's justice minister quits in blow to PM Harper

Fri May 29, 2015 5:34pm EDT
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By Darren Pitman

STELLARTON, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced his resignation on Friday, the second shock departure from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet this year, just months ahead of a tough election for the governing Conservatives.

MacKay, citing personal reasons, said he will not seek re-election in October but will remain justice minister until then.

The departure of MacKay, 49, is the latest setback for Harper, who is in a tight three-way race with opposition parties in the run-up to October's election.

"For entirely personal reasons, the time has come for me to step back from public life and concentrate on my young, growing family," MacKay said after a warm introduction from Harper.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird resigned unexpectedly in February. The latest exit from Harper's nine-year-old government prompted political cartoons of rats leaving a sinking ship.

"It's a perception issue now for Harper," said University of Calgary political science professor Anthony Sayers.

"He needs to steady the ship and, of course, resist the interpretation that these are people leaving because things aren't looking good for the Conservatives."

MacKay, a member of Parliament from Nova Scotia, was previously defense minister and foreign affairs minister, and was the face of a tough new security law Harper introduced this year. The Conservatives have touted their security credentials as a key campaign platform ahead of the election.   Continued...

Canada's Justice Minister Peter MacKay takes part in a cabinet swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in a July 15, 2013 file photo.  REUTERS/Chris Wattie/files