Six years ago Peter MacKay was a small town Crown prosecutor. Thursday morning he announced he wants to be the leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives.

MacKay, the 37-year-old MP from northern Nova Scotia, told a group of supporters in his hometown of Stellarton he's running to replace Joe Clark.

"I don't want to look back 10 years from now and wonder whether I could have made a difference," he said.

"I want to try this while I have the energy, the time and hopefully the skill-set that will help improve our party's chances and ultimately improve the country's position."

MacKay says he's not interested in uniting with the Alliance any more. His challenge is to generate support and interest in the party beyond its power base in Atlantic Canada.

Nova Scotia South Shore MP Gerald Keddy says MacKay is the right man to lead the Tories.

"He understands politics intuitively and that's extremely, extremely important. I don't see that from the rest of the candidates," said Keddy.

MacKay's connection to the Conservatives goes back a long way.

His father Elmer MacKay was in Brian Mulroney's cabinet. The two families are friendly.

MACKAY FACTS
  • Graduated from Acadia University with a bachelor of arts degree in 1987

  • Earned a law degree from Dalhousie University in 1990

  • Worked as a Crown prosecutor in New Glasgow, N.S, from 1993-97

  • Elected to Parliament in 1997 and immediately appointed Tory justice critic

  • Acted as the party's House leader. Sat on the board of internal economy and was an associate member of the standing committees on Canadian heritage and finance, as well as a member of the subcommittee on the study of sport in Canada

  • The son of former federal Tory cabinet minister Elmer MacKay

MacKay beat out Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice by a few hours to become the first person in the race for the Tory leadership.

MacKay has been a media darling of sorts in Ottawa, and he's perceived by some as the front runner.

However political scientist Heather McIvor of the University of Windsor has her eye elsewhere.

"The real wild card is Jim Prentice, if he can really impress people out of the gate and raise the money and team to make a run at it. The whole dynamic could be unpredictable," she said.

At least two others are expected to run as well. Nova Scotia Valley MP Scott Brison is expected to make his own announcement soon. Prairie farmer David Orchard is expected to do the same.

That means the race will be between two westerners and two Nova Scotians.