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Peter MacKay, former minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.Sean kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

It will be months before the Conservatives pick a permanent leader to succeed Rona Ambrose, but a new poll indicates one of her former cabinet colleagues has a head start in the race.

Peter MacKay – the former justice minister, Atlantic MP and final leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives – had the support of 35 per cent in a new Abacus Data survey. His support came most strongly from Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

Mr. MacKay held a substantial lead over the next-most-popular option, former Quebec premier Jean Charest (also a former federal PC leader), who was the pick of 15 per cent of respondents.

Not far behind them were former cabinet ministers Lisa Raitt of Ontario and Jason Kenney of Alberta, each at 10 per cent, and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall with 9 per cent.

While Ms. Raitt showed consistent support among demographics and geography, some politicians had support that was more localized. Mr. Wall found most of his support in the poll from the Prairies and among current Conservative voters, while Maxime Bernier showed strong support among Quebeckers.

Former labour minister Kellie Leitch, who says she is giving a leadership run "serious consideration," may be suffering from less name recognition. She had the lowest level of support with 4 per cent of respondents saying she would make the best leader.

Other potential contenders polled included Ontario MP Michael Chong and former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford.

Obviously there are some caveats: the rules of the Conservative leadership race haven't been decided yet, and an election isn't likely to be called before next fall. No candidate has yet formally declared. And, unless the party changes how the leadership is decided, only card-carrying Conservatives will be able to vote, not the general public. But, as an example, a poll conducted by Leger just a few months after the 2011 election correctly called the winners of the NDP and Liberal leadership races.

The Abacus survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians between Nov. 23 and 25. Online surveys do not carry a margin of error, though a comparably-sized random sample of adults would be considered accurate within 2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Read the full poll here.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> Politics fans, time to set your PVRs for a new season: the House of Commons is back today and Justin Trudeau will have his first Question Period as Prime Minister at 2:15 p.m. (ET).

> The Liberals will make changes this week to tax rates and will lower the limit on contributions to tax-free savings accounts, but the hike on higher income brackets will not pay for all of the tax cut on the middle class.

> The Liberals will ask dozens of people given patronage appointments in the final days of the Conservative government to step aside, CTV News is reporting.

> Canada is backing a call from small island nations for a lower global warming limit than the U.S. has endorsed. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is one of 14 international ministers tasked with facilitating negotiations at the Paris climate summit.

> Mike Duffy is expected to testify in his own defence this week.

> Inside the Liberals' first caucus meeting.

> And Conservative and Liberal caucus leaders in the Senate say they are willing to give Justin Trudeau's new appointment process a chance.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"[B.C. Housing Minister Rich] Coleman hopes to bring his approach to the national level. The new federal Liberal government has promised to boost spending on 'social infrastructure' such as housing by billions, and he sees this as an opportunity to shape that still-undefined housing strategy."

Justine Hunter (for subscribers) on the B.C. housing push.

Marsha Lederman (Globe and Mail): "I guess I missed the part where people were upset about taxpayer-funded cooks or other household staff that come with the job. So, we're okay with that, but not the childcare? Do I have that correct?"

Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "The apprenticeship of Justin Trudeau has already allowed him to shed political liabilities."

Ken Boessenkool and Sean Speer (Globe and Mail): "[Stephen] Harper's amalgam of traditional conservatism and classical liberalism was not just a coherent intellectual framework but also as a basis for building a robust political coalition."

Anthony Furey (Postmedia): "If the federal Liberals follow the same path as their Ontario counterparts, Canadians will be in for a rough ride."

Murray Mandryk (Regina Leader-Post): "But is [Premier Brad Wall] only speaking on behalf of the interests of Saskatchewan taxpayers? Or is his latest attempt to tweak Trudeau's nose via Twitter another salvo in Wall's much-rumoured interest in becoming national Conservative leader and taking on Trudeau more formally?"

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