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Politics Conservatives begin unofficial race for the leadership

Preston Manning answers questions during a media conference to introduce Canadaâ™s Ecofiscal Commission, a new initiative to address Canadaâ™s economic and environmental challenges, and the release of the commissionâ™s first report in Toronto, Ontario, Tuesday, November 4, 2014. (Photo by Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

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The Manning Centre Conference, famously once called "Woodstock for conservatives," kicks off in Ottawa tonight. (Speaking of that, Mark Bonokoski writes in the Sun that, as someone who tried to go to the original concert, maybe the organizers should consider a more modern moniker.)

The gathering of conservative-minded politicians, staffers, commentators and more will have more urgency than usual this year: it's already being seen by many as the unofficial beginning of the race for the permanent leadership of the Conservative party.

The conference features two panels on that very topic: on Friday, businessman and reality star Kevin O'Leary and Conservative Ontario MP Michael Chong feature on a panel called "If I Run, Here's How I'd Do It (Part 1)"; and on Saturday, Part 2 features former Harper cabinet ministers Tony Clement, Lisa Raitt and Maxime Bernier.

In addition to those names, as John Ibbitson reports (for subscribers), Ontario MP Kellie Leitch, a former labour minister, has already begun organizing for the leadership race, and, as Chantal Hébert writes, there's much talk about whether two other high-profile former cabinet ministers – Jason Kenney and Peter MacKay – will jump in.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> A special parliamentary committee will release its recommendations today for a proposed assisted-dying law. Sources tell The Globe's Robert Fife and Laura Stone that the report will call for allowing advance consent from dementia patients and no access for children or people with mental illness until it's seen how the system works for adults.

> The Liberal government will make a payment to remain part of the consortium for the F-35 fighter jets this spring, even though the Liberals pledged during the election not to purchase the aircraft.

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> As drugstore chains eye the marijuana market and a court ruling said those with medical licences can grow their own pot, a battle is brewing over what the new sector will look like.

> Call it cabinet growing pains: two chiefs of staff have been let go as new ministers quickly learn on the job.

> Alberta is bracing for its longest economic slump in 30 years, and the provincial government is expecting this year's budget to post a deficit of more than $10-billion.

> And Guy Giorno, a former chief of staff to Stephen Harper and campaign director for the Conservative Party, is now pushing proportional representation as the Liberals consider electoral reform.

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"It is easy to slide into deficits, even deep deficits. It is much harder to climb out. The Justin Trudeau Liberals will discover this. Their budgets will blow past all their campaign's deficit projections. They can't bring themselves to say it openly, but, four years from now, the federal government will still have a large deficit mocking the Liberals' campaign promise to balance the books in four years." – Jeffrey Simpson (for subscribers).

John Ibbitson (Globe and Mail): "In the past, Conservatives often spent more time fighting each other than they spent fighting the Liberals." (for subscribers)

Sylvain Charlesbois (Globe and Mail): "From a business perspective, marijuana sales also have obvious drawbacks. For one, brand equity could be affected by selling what many consumers still perceive as a forbidden product."

Andrew Coyne (National Post): "In recent decades we've been able to raise incomes, not by making each worker more productive, but by putting a lot more people to work: we had the fastest labour force growth in the western world. Latterly we were given an additional boost from high oil prices. Neither of these apply any longer. So we really have no alternative but to get serious about raising productivity."

Brent Rathgeber (iPolitics): "Throughout my time in politics, two things mattered most to me: maintaining a functional legislative branch and upholding a working Parliament. One thing poses a mortal threat to both: a hypocritical, power-grabbing Prime Minister's Office. Which is why I'm more than a little troubled by the Trudeau government's musings about a whipped vote on its legislation to deal with physician-assisted dying – legislation it has yet to draft."

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