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Peter MacKay addresses the crowd at a federal Conservative leadership forum during the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative party in Halifax on Feb. 8, 2020. The 2020 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election will be held on June 27, 2020.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay has deleted and replaced a tweet that praised the actions of “counter protesters” who tried to clear a blockade on CN tracks in Edmonton.

“Glad to see a couple Albertans with a pickup can do more for our economy in an afternoon than Justin Trudeau could do in four years,” Mr. MacKay tweeted on Wednesday.

The tweet, which linked to a tweet from Global News reporter Fletcher Kent, led to accusations on social media that Mr. MacKay was supporting vigilantism and endorsing potentially illegal actions. It was subsequently deleted.

This is the second time Mr. MacKay has removed a message posted to his social media accounts. Earlier this month, he said a tweet that went out under his name – attacking the Prime Minister for expensing $876.95 in yoga and spa sessions during the last Liberal leadership race – fell short of his personal standards of civility. “I am not happy at the way that was put up on my site. And I voiced that to my team,” Mr. MacKay told CBC News.

Mr. MacKay’s message on the rail blockades was removed and replaced by another posted shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

In his new message, Mr. MacKay said he viewed the counterprotests as “an act of good citizenship,” tagging three journalists – The Globe and Mail’s Andrew Coyne, CTV News’s Evan Solomon and Global News’s Mercedes Stephenson – who had raised questions about his initial tweet.

“The peaceful removal of debris deliberately placed on railway that posed a threat to public safety. Clearing the track and preventing harm,” Mr. MacKay said, adding he stands with “the workers, producers and suppliers who work hard, obey the law, care for their neighbours and keep Canada the best place in the world to live.”

In an e-mail to his supporters on Thursday, Mr. MacKay quoted from his since-deleted tweet, explaining he actually wanted to say the situation makes him sad rather than glad.

“I do not, nor will I ever support acts of vigilantism. Which is actually what these blockades are,” he said.

Another Conservative leadership candidate, MP Erin O’Toole, said on Thursday that as prime minister, he would remove the need for an injunction before police can clear a blockade and issue a general directive to police to “clear blockades as soon as possible.”

“We will stand firm for the rule of law. We will fight for Canadian workers and their jobs that have been put at risk by illegal blockaders. We will stand up to eco-extremists, foreign-funded misinformation and protect Canada’s economy,” Mr. O’Toole said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Mr. O’Toole called for leadership at the federal level in relation to the counterprotests.

“Every passing day that Justin Trudeau ignores law-breaking brings us another day closer to vigilantism and violence. We need leadership today,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr. O’Toole has also circulated a petition in which he states that Canada has been “overrun by illegal blockades” and denounces the “extremists” leading the protests.

“Enough is enough. When I am prime minister, I will ensure we enforce the law,” Mr. O’Toole said, without providing more specifics. “These activists had their day in court and lost. They do not speak for Canadians or First Nations, the vast majority of whom support pipelines. I’m running for Conservative leader to put an end to Justin Trudeau’s weakness.”

A third Conservative candidate, MP Marilyn Gladu, has called for the relationship with Indigenous communities to be redefined in Canada, through the resolution of treaty and land disputes and by taking action on recent reports such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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