No more jets or tanks: it’s time for Defence Minister Peter MacKay to retire from politics

Andy Radia

It's time for Peter MacKay to call it quits.

On Wednesday, Postmedia News became the latest media outlet to speculate that maybe, potentially, perhaps the Defence Minister would be retiring from politics in the near future.

After all, they said, both MacKay's long-time chief of staff and communications director recently quit, he's had some problems with his portfolio and he's a new papa.

Will MacKay actually leave? That remains to be seen.

Should he? Absolutely yes!

[ Related: Conservative Cabinet Minister Vic Toews to retire from politics: report ]

MacKay was once seen as a rising star in Ottawa — some even predicted that he would, one day, replace Stephen Harper as the leader of the Conservative Party.

But, over the past couple of years, MacKay's stock has dropped substantially after a series of gaffes and blunders as defence minister.

He's been forced to defend himself over a 10 minute trip on a search-and-rescue helicopter in July 2010. The helicopter picked up MacKay from his personal fishing trip in central Newfoundland at a cost to taxpayers of $32,000.

In 2011 , reports surfaced that MacKay incurred pricey hotel tabs during conference stays in Europe, which saw one bill reach $1,452 per night.

He's also been ridiculed for the F-35 boondoggle and other military procurement nightmares.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Press reported that "civilian staff numbers at National Defence grew by almost 30 per cent over six years, despite budget cuts and warnings the military has too much 'tail and not enough teeth.'"

And, on Thursday, MacKay was involved in a photo-op to 'deliver' Canada's first new CH-147F Chinook transport helicopter. That is good news but the process was marred with controversy. The NDP put out a statement claiming the helicopters are five years late and millions over budget while CBC reminds us that, in 2010, Auditor General Sheila Fraser complained that National Defence "underestimated and understated" the complexity of the contracts for the Chinook.

Certainly defence is a difficult portfolio, but overall MacKay has proven that he's not up for the challenge.

[ Related: Peter MacKay called ‘a kind of Honorary Defence Minister’ by CBC’s Rex Murphy ]

Right-leaning political consultant Gerry Nicholls contends that MacKay doesn't have much of a future in the Conservative Party.

"If MacKay is interested in career advancement, he’d be wise to leave federal politics," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"His infamous “Orchard deal”, his seeming incompetence in dealing with the F-35 jet controversy; his resolute opposition to allowing “one member one vote” for Conservative leadership contests, have soured him with large elements of the party’s base.

"In other words, as far as Conservative politics goes, MacKay has no place but down or out."

[ Related: Peter MacKay could leave Conservative Party over change in leadership rules ]

For his benefit, MacKay could probably make a lot more money in the private sector.

And if he still wants to be leader of the Conservatives one day — maybe stepping a way for a couple years would be the smartest thing for him to do.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien took a so-called 'strategic retreat' from politics in 1986 and only returned in 1990 to take the over the Liberal leadership.

If MacKay — a very likable and intelligent guy — left politics he could spend some time with the new wife and baby, get some real world experience, become a part-time commentator and maybe regain the respect of the Canadian public.

How does that old saying go: Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

It's time for MacKay to be absent from Ottawa.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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