MacKay won't run to lead new party

Young leader of federal Tories hints he will seek Conservative leadership another time; meanwhile, Tory MP from Quebec quits politics.

Former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay announced Tuesday that he will not run for the leadership of the new party he helped create.

"My heart said, 'Go,' but my head said, 'No,'" said MacKay at an Ottawa news conference. "To be frank, it just wasn't there, not there this time."

The 38-year-old politician acknowledged that just seven months after he won the Progressive Conservative leadership, he lacked the funds he would need to run a credible campaign. But he stressed that he reserved the right to seek the party's top job another time.

"I'm stepping back, not out. Sometimes it is necessary to get out of the traffic to see the road ahead," he said.

If he had launched a leadership bid, MacKay would have had trouble living down his reputation as someone who broke his word on the way to ending the life of his party.

The day he won the Tory leadership, he promised rival David Orchard that he would not merge with the Alliance. He later entered into secret negotiations and did just that.

"Some were using the gangplank to hit me over the head with," he acknowledged.

MacKay refused to say who he'll back in the race, a day after former Alliance leader Stephen Harper became the only candidate officially in the race to lead the new Conservative Party of Canada.

"Yes, I think Stephen Harper is beatable," he said. "I think this is going to be a very interesting race."

MacKay will run as a candidate for the Conservatives in an anticipated spring election, and encourage other Progressive Conservatives to stick around and rebuild the right in Canada.

The MP from Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough in Nova Scotia was under pressure to run from the Atlantic premiers, all of whom are Progressive Conservatives. They are concerned that Atlantic views won't make it into the leadership campaign if the region doesn't field a candidate.

That looks increasingly unlikely, given MacKay's decision.

The three candidates most widely expected to join Harper in the competition leading up to the March 19 selection of a new boss are MP Chuck Strahl from British Columbia, former Ontario health minister Tony Clement and Magna CEO and president Belinda Stronach, also from Ontario.

Meanwhile, another former Tory MP has announced that he won't be a part of the new Conservative party.

André Bachand was the PC party's only MP from Quebec, and has held his seat since 1997. He said the new Conservative party is just too right wing for him.

"It's the old Reform. Now Stephen Harper is the only candidate ... So what kind of signal are we sending to the people of Quebec and the rest of Canada? It might be a takeover."

Bachand was heavily courted by the federal Liberals to cross the floor rather than quit politics, but turned down the appeal.

He will sit as an Independent for his rural riding of Richmond-Arthabaska until the next federal election.