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Peter MacKay is seen at the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver on May 27, 2016.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Peter MacKay won't run for leader of the federal Conservative Party of Canada.

After months of speculation, the 50-year-old former cabinet minister and father of two released a statement on Monday saying he is taking himself out of the running for family reasons. The former Nova Scotia MP didn't run in last year's federal election.

"After much soul searching, advice from trusted friends and weighing of the impact on my young family, I have decided not to seek the leadership of the party. I choose not to run at this time for some of the same reasons I stated when I chose not to seek re-election last year. My family is my No. 1 priority," said Mr. MacKay, who has two small children, three-year-old Kian and 11-month-old Valentina, with his wife, human-rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam.

"While the opportunity is exciting and the reward compelling, I feel it would be asking too much of them to jump back into politics right now and the heat of a leadership campaign with all that it entails."

Mr. MacKay, the presumptive front-runner in the race, said he spent the summer contemplating his return to public life.

"The decision to seek the leadership is an enormous one, that would have both personal and professional consequences for many people in my life," said Mr. MacKay, now a partner in the Toronto office of U.S.-based global law firm Baker & McKenzie.

"I felt that I owed it to the many supporters, and frankly to myself, to take the time over the summer to consider this path. Politics is a serious profession and a calling of the highest order."

The former justice, defence and foreign affairs minister in Stephen Harper's government said he consulted broadly and had "numerous meetings" with many people who encouraged him to run. He previously sought the Progressive Conservative leadership in 2003 before it merged with Mr. Harper's Canadian Alliance to form the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

His statement comes as the Conservative caucus meets in Halifax to discuss their strategy to take on Justin Trudeau's Liberals this fall, as well as their party's leadership race.

Mr. MacKay said he was announcing his decision in order to be fair to the other candidates.

"In fairness to others declared, and those in consideration, I feel it is time to decide so as not to negatively impact others," he said.

So far the race includes five official candidates: Ontario MPs Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Tony Clement, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier and Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai.

Ms. Leitch grabbed headlines last week with her proposal to screen immigrants for "anti-Canadian values." Many in her party, including interim leader Rona Ambrose, have come out against the idea, although Ms. Leitch said her pitch is about having a discussion about a "unified Canadian identify," which includes hard work, equality and tolerance.

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, also considered a strong contender for leader, has said she has made up her mind about seeking the leadership but isn't prepared to announce her decision just yet. TV personality Kevin O'Leary has also toyed with the idea of running, although he could throw his support behind another candidate and settle for fiscal guru instead.

Others, such as Conservative MP Brad Trost, defeated MP Pierre Lemieux and communication consultant Adrienne Snow, have declared their intentions to run.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clement revealed his national security plan in Ottawa on Monday, telling reporters that suspected terrorists who are under peace bonds should be monitored 24/7 or in jail, subject to a judicial process.

Mr. Clement's 10-point security plan also includes working with families to counter radical Islamic ideology, developing a "wanted" list of extremist militants and enhancing immigrant screening to include face-to-face interviews in the applicant's country of residence.