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The Conservative Party of Canada has set a date for the third – and almost certainly final – debate in its leadership contest, even as two candidates reject organizers’ decision to hold one.

The party has told members to mark their calendars to watch the Aug. 3 event online. Campaigns expect the debate to take place in Ottawa.

“With less than two months to go before our next leader is announced, this event will provide a key opportunity for members to hone their decision on who they believe is the best fit to lead our party into the next election,” read a missive sent Thursday evening.

The party was still in discussions Friday about the debate format, a factor that has likely been complicated by the anticipated absence of at least one of the race’s five candidates.

Pierre Poilievre, the perceived front-runner in the contest, announced through a campaign statement Thursday that he would not attend.

According to party rules, it is mandatory that candidates participate in all party debates. Failure to do so means $50,000 will be taken from the absent candidate’s compliance deposit, submitted to enter the race.

Mr. Poilievre’s campaign said he would focus on ensuring supporters fill out their ballots and drop them in the mail before the September deadline.

Mr. Poilievre’s team also attacked the first English-language debate the party held in May as an “embarrassment” because it featured a string of personal questions for candidates about their favourite music and television shows.

Leslyn Lewis also questioned the need for another debate when recordings from two previous ones are accessible online.

Ms. Lewis added she had a packed schedule of meetings with party members over the next few weeks. Her campaign has said it is discussing the issue with the party.

Planning for the third debate comes as voting for the next leader is already underway. As of Friday, the party estimated about 29,000 completed ballots had been returned by members.

Results will be revealed Sept.10.

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