Four of the six candidates in the race to lead the federal Conservatives are calling on the party to hold a third official debate.
The four candidates seeking another debate are former Quebec premier Jean Charest, Ontario MP Scott Aitchison, former Ontario legislature member Roman Baber, and Brampton mayor Patrick Brown. All announced their views on social media on Wednesday.
The party has already held two debates, one in English in Edmonton on May 11, and a second in French on May 25 in Laval, a suburb north of Montreal.
Asked about the issue on Wednesday, party president Robert Batherson said in a statement that a slot has been held open for a third official debate in August.
“We expect to make a decision this month.”
A few days ago, the campaign of Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre announced it had signed up more than 300,000 members. The only other camp to release its membership numbers was Mr. Brown’s, which said it had signed up 150,000.
The other candidates have said they will carry on their campaigns and that the race is not yet over, but have not released membership numbers to underline their confidence.
The challenge ahead for the campaigns is to ensure that members they have signed up actually vote for their candidate. The party is to release the final result of the leadership election on Sept. 10 in Ottawa.
Mr. Charest announced his preference for a debate in a tweet. “I welcome the opportunity for another #CPCLDR debate on policy ideas. Every candidate should welcome the chance to engage further with our members,” Mr. Charest’s tweet said.
Laurence Tôth, a spokesperson for Mr. Charest, said in an interview that the candidate supports another debate because thousands of people have joined the party since the last one.
She said Mr. Charest wants a bilingual debate in the Maritimes.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Baber both tweeted their support for a third official debate. Mr. Baber’s comment included the remark, “Canadians need to hear from us. But no Tom Clark this time.”
Mr. Clark, a former political journalist, hosted the debate held in Edmonton. Mr. Baber did not elaborate on his concerns.
Mr. Aitchison went a little further than the others, tweeting a video in which he said “I’m in” on the possibility of a third debate.
“Thousands of Canadians across this country have joined our party for the first time, and many of them don’t know their leadership candidates very well,” he said.
“So it would be great to have a third debate on policy where we can talk about ideas that not only these new members of the party, but millions of Canadians across the country, can hear. We need to speak to Canadians and this is a great way to do it. Let’s have a third debate. I’ll see you there.”
Steve Outhouse, campaign director for Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis, said the candidate will abide by whatever decision is made.
Mr. Poilievre’s spokesperson did not respond to a request on Wednesday for comment.
The six candidates are trying to replace Erin O’Toole, removed as leader in a vote of the Conservative caucus in early February.
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