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Mac Kay was largely seen as the assumed victor of the race from the outset of the leadership contest.Ultimately, his candidacy was helped by the absence of so-called "dream candidates" such as provincial Progressive Conservative Premiers Bernard Lord, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein who did not run for the leadership.When asked in a 2001 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on the resurgence of the PC Party if he would ever consider running for the PC leadership, Mac Kay quipped, "If there's one thing I've learned in politics it's 'never say never.' Jean Charest taught me that." In August 2001, he was one of several PC MPs to engage in open cooperation talks with disaffected Canadian Alliance MPs in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.Eventually a union of sorts was created between the PCs and the newly formed Democratic Representative Caucus (DRC).He also acted as an associate member of the Standing Committees on Canadian Heritage, Finance and the sub-committee on the Study of Sport.Mac Kay was re-elected in the 2000 federal election and was frequently touted by the media as a possible successor to PC Party leader Joe Clark.Mac Kay entered the first ballot of the PC leadership convention held on May 31, 2003 with roughly 41% of the delegates supporting him.
From the onset of the campaign, Mac Kay insisted that his primary goal upon assuming the leadership would be the rebuilding the fractured conservative movement from within the PC tent.
Mac Kay was appointed House Leader of the new PC-DR Parliamentary Coalition Caucus when it was formally recognized as a political body on September 10, 2001.
The PC-DR initiative collapsed in April 2002, raising questions about Clark's leadership.
In 1993, Mac Kay accepted an appointment as Crown Attorney for the Central Region of Nova Scotia.
He prosecuted cases at all levels, including youth and provincial courts as well as the Supreme Court of Canada.