About two dozen protestors on Lakeshore Drive in Barrie held signs and banners calling for reconciliation and accusing Peter Mackay of being a racist, as the perceived front-runner for the federal Conservative party leadership addressed the ongoing anti-pipeline blockades during a visit to the city .
MacKay said he regretted seeing the country’s critical infrastructure being paralyzed by people who are not truly representing the Indigenous community they claim to represent, where the pipeline is to be built in northern B.C.
“We know 20 bands signed on and are poised to benefit from the completion of that gas pipeline.”
The former defence minister posted a video to Twitter on Tuesday night accusing those of blocking railways as thugs.
Before addressing a full house at PIE Wood Fired Pizza Joint, MacKay continued to double down on demonstrators who have blocked railways, in particular a line near Belleville that has halted CN Rail in eastern Canada and some VIA Rail service.
And he laid the blame on the Trudeau government for letting the protest drag on for two weeks.
“We have one law in this country for all our citizens and we need to restore peace, order and good government. That falls directly under the responsibility of this prime minister and this government, and they are failing.”
There is a court injuction to remove the demonstrators from the area but Justin Trudeau has emphasized dialogue over force.
MacKay said the rail blockade was having a devastating impact on the Canadian economy.
MacKay, who is from Nova Scotia, did not seek re-election in 2015. His Tory blue roots are deep, and it’s acknowledged his name carries weight over his two declared opponents, Erin O’Toole and Marilyn Gladu.
MacKay was defence minister and held other portfolios in the Stephen Harper cabinet.
He was also the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and agreed to merge the party with Stephen Harper’s Canadian Alliance in 2003, creating the Conservative Party of Canada.
Ideally, MacKay wants a Conservative party that is not only unified but attracts more members. He used the analogy of a big blue tent that needs to continue to move the tent pegs out and make people feel comfortable.
“I would suggest social Conservatives and people who are more progressive in their views all unite around backyard and back pocket economic issues that get the country moving.”
If he becomes prime minister, MacKay said he would tackle the affordable housing issue and work closely with the provinces and municipalities.
He said affordable housing was very much on his radar and he had spoken to a number of groups who advocate for more affordable housing.
MacKay also referenced the opioid crisis, calling it an epidemic in many communities and that he was worried about the mental health implications of those affected.
He said the Conservative party has a comprehensive policy for climate change but during the last federal election felt it was not well known or well understood.
“I don’t think the answer is putting a carbon tax on everyone. That is essentially a licence to pollute and it doesn’t lower greenhouse gas emissions.” said MacKay.
He said the Conservative’s climate change policy is going to be based on technology and efforts to get the country’s liquefied gas which has about half the emissions of coal fired generation.
“I think that will crack the climate change atom.”
During the last federal election, eyebrows were raised because Doug Ford was a no-show during Andrew Sheer’s campaign stops in Ontario, even in the premier’s own riding.
MacKay said he would absolutely campaign with Ford during a federal election.
“I see Doug Ford as a premier who is much aligned on many of the issues such as helping people and getting the economy moving.”
The Conservative party will pick a new leader in June.