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Next Conservative Leader? Peter MacKay Top Choice To Replace Harper, Says Poll

If Stephen Harper packs it in before the 2015 election (and that’s a big "if"), HuffPost Canada readers overwhelming believe Justice Minister Peter MacKay is the member of the Conservative caucus most likely to take his spot.

In a highly unscientific but interesting survey that coincided with the summer cabinet shuffle, HuffPost asked readers to predict a current member of Harper’s inner circle and a candidate from outside caucus that may land the top Tory job someday.

More than 3,000 readers from all across Canada participated and shared interesting insights in to what they are looking for in political leadership.

The survey offered up nine other cabinet ministers besides MacKay who may have leadership aspirations, including Jason Kenney, James Moore, John Baird, Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt, Maxime Bernier, Tony Clement, Pierre Poilievre and Chris Alexander.

Participants were asked to identify their province and whether or not they are a Conservative supporter. About 80 per cent said they were not Conservative supporters, while 20 per cent back the Tories, so a majority of respondents are unlikely to participate in a future leadership convention.

Roughly 44 per cent of the respondents said they were from Ontario, with 16 per cent from British Columbia, 14 per cent from Alberta, and six per cent from Quebec.

So, with those grains of salt dished, let’s look at the results.

MacKay, who was recently moved to the Department of Justice after serving as defence minister since 2007, was picked as the most likely future Tory prime minister across the board.

The 47-year-old, who was the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada before that party merged with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, took 999 of 3,308 total votes, or about 30 per cent.

MacKay led votes in every province, taking 54 per cent in his native province of Nova Scotia and 31 per cent of the Ontario votes. Interestingly, MacKay also took 27 per cent of the results in Alberta, while Minister of Employment and Social Development and Calgary MP Jason Kenney only nabbed 19 per cent.

Kenney, 45, finished second overall with 407 votes (12 per cent), while Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, 44, finished third with 307 votes (nine per cent).

New Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, 44, finished a distant fourth with 300 votes, or just shy of nine per cent, but still eclipsed more well-known MPs like Moore, Raitt, Ambrose and Clement. Could the Ontario MP be a dark horse to watch?

Of course, things change a little when you take a closer look at where that support is coming from.

Of MacKay’s 999 votes, 841 were from readers who don’t identify themselves as Conservative, while 158 were from Tory supporters. Of Kenney’s 407 total votes, 241 were from non-Conservatives while 166 came from Conservatives. This may suggest Kenney has a slight lead with Tory supporters, while MacKay boasts wider overall appeal.

Check the slideshow below for more interesting results from our unscientific survey.

Which Cabinet Minister May Replace Harper?

Many readers also took the time to share what they are looking for in the next Tory leader. We encouraged non-Tories to share ideas because, after all, if Harper does retire before the next election, the Conservative who takes his place will be PM whether Canadians like it or not.

Here’s what they are looking for:

"Anyone who will tell the truth. Must be willing to consider ideas from opposition parties." -- @rickthaluddite, Ontario

"Balance of regional interests. Good fiscal management. Progressive social / social justice agenda."-- @cyclebrock, Saskatchewan

"Balance, less partisanship, friendlier to environment, represent Canadian rights stronger, more democractic in laws." -- @denterry, Ontario

"If we MUST have a Tory government, let a Red Tory of the Dalton Camp philosophy, who would be willing to work with other parties and groups, become PM." -- @ChrisErl, Ontario

"Honesty and Integrative and keeping with the traditions to the Conservative job with due diligence. I think Harper is doing a fantastic job." -- @vgalpin, Ontario

"Someone willing to allow MP's to vote their conscience, even if it is against the party line. To expect MP's of all regions to agree all the time or be kicked out of caucus is ridiculous and an offense to the democratic process and voting public." -- @SofaProfessor, Alberta

"Pragmatism, support for Canadian Space Agency (and other innovation-based industry), and open economy." -- @ZamboniPilot, Ontario

"A more centrist, more Progressive Conservative approach to governance. I want an alternative choice of party that's capable of governing for all Canadians rather than just their narrow ideological base." -- @Gladaman, Ontario

"Someone who recognizes that economic sustainability means environmental sustainability as well. What good is a strong economy if we don't have a planet left?" -- @josephmcninch, Ontario

"A moderate from outside of Ontario and Quebec who has a lengthy resume." -- @hisholinessevan, Nova Scotia

Does MacKay have the stuff needed to become prime minister one day? Tell us in the comments below and stay tuned as we reveal who ranked among those not part of the present Tory caucus.

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