September 11, 2016 11:10 am
Updated: October 14, 2016 2:27 pm

Canadians prefer MacKay or O’Leary as next Conservative leader: Ipsos poll

Peter MacKay would win the race to become the next Conservative leader if the vote were held today and every Canadian could cast a ballot.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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Neither one of them have officially declared their candidacy, but a new poll shows businessman Kevin O’Leary and former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay are the early favourites to become the next leader of the federal Conservative Party.

According to a new Ipsos Poll, conducted on behalf of Global News between Sept. 6 and Sept 8, MacKay and O’Leary led the field of nine potential candidates when ordinary Canadians were asked who they’d select to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper.

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“What this shows is that the race has really just started, and people are looking for some more compelling candidates to join the fray,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.

It just shows you the power of media and television in particular, that somebody (like O’Leary), who for no other reason than being a person on Bay Street, all of a sudden is potentially a real contender in a leadership campaign for a national party.”

Kevin O’Leary speaks during a session entitled “If I run here’s how i’d do it” during a conservative conference in Ottawa Friday, February 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

O’Leary and MacKay were also the most well-known names among respondents, but positive impressions among the people aware of MacKay were significantly higher than impressions of O’Leary.

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The businessman is “divisive,” the poll suggests, but Bricker said it’s too early to say if that will affect his chances if he runs.

“It’s undeniable that what’s happening south of the border right now is going to have some impact on what people think of candidates like Kevin O’Leary here in Canada,” he said, referencing Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Overall, if all Canadians 18 or older could vote for the next Conservative leader, the poll found that MacKay would net 26 per cent support and O’Leary would be close behind with 25 per cent.

The rest of the pack is further back, with Maxime Bernier at 15 per cent, Candice Bergen at 10 per cent, Tony Clement at 8 per cent, Lisa Raitt at 7 per cent, Michael Chong at 5 per cent, and both Kellie Leitch and Erin O’Toole at 2 per cent.

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According to Bricker, the recognition among Canadians of each of these candidates will almost certainly increase as the campaign progresses. That will be key, because many of the hopefuls will need to recruit new members to the Conservative Party in order to get enough votes at the leadership convention to win.

“The current base of the Conservative Party will not be enough in order to win the campaign. They’re going to have to expand beyond that.”

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The other factor at play is regional preferences across the country.

“It’s clear there’s one person who’s a regional champion here and that’s Maxime Bernier. He seems to obviously have some great appeal in the province of Quebec,” Bricker said.

Bernier has a commanding lead in popular support among Quebecers, at 49 per cent. MacKay is a distant second with 18 per cent.

But even Bernier may face a challenge in Quebec if others come forward with policy proposals that appeal to that province.

“It’s still very early days … but you see there’s a lot of potential for a lot of shakeups here.”

The Conservatives are currently being led by Rona Ambrose on an interim basis. They are set to select their new leader on May 27, 2017.

For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to census data. The poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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