Help Peter MacKay pay off leadership race debt, Stephen Harper urges Conservatives

OTTAWA — Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper will once again support Peter MacKay in a bid to help him pay off his debt from the 2020 Conservative Party leadership race.

Sixteen months into the contest, MacKay still owes about $500,000 and in a letter to party members and supporters this week, Harper said people need to help him pay for that.

“I understand that times are tough, but I do not want to see the future of Peter and his family weighed down by debt incurred in the service of our country and our Conservative party,” Harper wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the star.

MacKay was considered the favorite heading into the leadership race, which began after Andrew Scheer announced in December 2019 that he intended to step down.

The COVID-19 pandemic kicked in just a few months later, forcing most campaigning and fundraising into the virtual sphere and delaying voting.

The winner was ultimately chosen in a mail-in vote using ranked ballots. MacKay lost after supporters of candidates Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis endorsed Erin O’Toole.

In her letter, Harper called MacKay’s leadership offer “a strong and thoughtful campaign,” noting his longstanding ties to the party.

MacKay was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada when it merged with Harper’s Canadian Alliance to create today’s Conservative Party.

In the letter, Harper acknowledged Mackay’s role in founding the modern party, as well as the cabinet positions he later held in Harper’s Conservative government.

“I believe that the people who serve the country deserve our support,” he wrote.

“That’s why today I’m asking you to contribute to the effort to pay off the remaining debt from Peter’s leadership campaign.”

It’s not the first time Harper has come out to support MacKay.

Harper and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney have held private fundraisers to help with MacKay’s campaign expenses. In the letter, he notes that the pandemic means such events will not be possible for the foreseeable future.

MacKay spent about $4.6 million on his leadership offer and finished the race with about $1 million in debt, a figure his campaign says increased due to the need to hire private security in the wake of threats against his family during the race.

He’s been cutting it ever since, and with a new calendar year meaning a clean slate for donation limits, his campaign expects to see the final $500,000 shrink even more in the coming months.

MacKay moved with his family from Toronto to his home province of Nova Scotia after the leadership race and opted to remain on the sidelines after considering a run in last year’s federal election.


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