Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises to announce he will step down as leader of the Conservatives, Thursday December 12, 2019 in the House of Commons in Ottawa. In 2019, federal Conservatives sought to sway voters in their direction with the slogan “time for you to get ahead.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

New poll suggests Tories know what they want in a new leader but not whom to pick

Eighty-two per cent want a focus on maintaining balanced budgets

A new poll finds Conservative voters are far more sure about what they want in a new leader for their party than they are about who should fill that job.

A Leger Marketing survey suggests 29 per cent of decided Conservative voters either don’t have an answer or don’t want to give one when asked who they’d like to see at the top of the party.

Leading their wish lists with 18 per cent support each were former leaders Stephen Harper and Rona Ambrose. Harper isn’t running and Ambrose remains undecided.

Those two also led the pack among all the Canadians Leger surveyed, of all partisan loyalties, and in third was former cabinet minister Peter MacKay.

When asked what characteristics their new leader should have, the poll suggests that in some areas Conservatives are pretty clear.

Eighty-two per cent want a focus on maintaining balanced budgets, 71 per cent are looking for someone with prior political experience and 63 per cent want their leader to aim to reduce immigration to Canada.

Leger polled 1,554 Canadian voters between Jan. 3 and 7, as contenders continued to declare themselves as interested in the top job.

The survey can’t be assigned a margin of error because polls from Internet panels are not random samples.

After MacKay, who is still considering a bid, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney received six per cent support among Conservative supporters. But he’s not running.

Among those who have indicated an interest in the Conservative leadership: former Quebec premier Jean Charest has four per cent support, as does finance critic Pierre Poilievre. Innovation critic Michelle Rempel Garner is at three per cent.

The statistical leaders suggest who is stamped with the Conservative brand and who isn’t, said Leger Marketing vice-president Christian Bourque.

“Stephen Harper — Canadians know who he is, he has a brand, which is something that maybe Rona has to some extent, and Peter MacKay because of his length of tenure in Ottawa and everything else,” he said.

“Mr. Charest has it locally in Quebec, Jason Kenney has to some extent out west and the other candidates don’t have it.”

Rempel Garner and Ambrose were the only women whose names were included in the survey. With both undecided about running, there is much debate within Conservative circles about whether there will be a female candidate at all.

That the next leader ought to be a woman only matters to five per cent of decided Conservative voters surveyed, with 17 per cent saying it should be a man and 77 per cent saying the leader’s sex doesn’t matter to them.

Among Canadians overall, 11 per cent said they’d like the next Conservative leader to be a woman, 9 per cent said a man and 76 per cent said it didn’t matter.

A key challenge for the Conservatives in the next election, which the new leader will have to meet, will be expanding their support beyond those already committed to voting for them.

Leger’s poll suggests that if the election had been held on the day voters were polled — even with the party leadership in flux — the Tories would have had the support of 31 per cent of decided voters. That’s about what the party considers its baseline.

Looking at the qualities Canadians overall are looking for, some things leap out, Bourque said.

Sixty per cent of those surveyed want a focus on balanced budgets. Sixty per cent also want a pro-choice leader and 53 per cent want a leader in favour of same-sex marriage.

“People are saying you can be fiscally conservative, I’m willing to listen and I’d like to balance the books as well,” he said.

“But if you want to be a social conservative, I’m not sure you have a chance.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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