Inside Politics

All-candidate no-shows: now a very long list

Once again in this election, candidates across Canada stand accused of dodging invitations to participate in all-candidates debates, forums and/or media panels.

To try to make sense of it all collectively, I've made a list.

All parties are represented on this list, but the majority of the examples involve Conservatives. If you know of more examples that should be included here, we'd be happy to receive updates.

Thank you to everyone who has written or added information in the comments section below. This list is so long because I heard from so many of you.

Note: Some wrote to complain that although a candidate did show up at an event, he/she was tightly scripted and appeared to have 'set up' questions planted in the audience to allow him/her to get specific points across. I'm unable to verify this without having attended such events myself, but I agree that it's troubling, if true.

Because so many of the reports involved Conservative candidates, I contacted the Conservatives' national campaign office. Here's what spokesman Ryan Sparrow wrote about the direction given to local candidates when it comes to all-candidates' forums:

We provide support for candidates to participate in candidates debates, but we don't instruct them not to attend debates. Most candidates would prefer to meet with voters one on one though instead of debating their opponents in crowds of committed supporters of the different parties.

As the campaign draws to a close, this list has grown to a length that's rather depressing - at least for those who believe in the value of all-candidates debates as a means for voters to kick their candidates' tires and form their own impressions from the head-to-head comparison.

Little wonder, perhaps, that one newspaper headline this week asked if all-candidates debates were relics of the past.

As Louise Elliott reported, Conservatives Chris Alexander (Ajax-Pickering) and Corneliu Chisu (Pickering-Scarborough East) have skipped all-candidates opportunities in their ridings.

UPDATE: A teacher provided a local news outlet with a recording that appears to confirm Chisu was told to skip the event by the Conservative Party's Ontario political operations officer. 

(Note: Alexander has attended other events. So has Chisu.)

La Presse names six Conservative candidates who are avoiding all-candidates events:

  • Sylvie Boucher (Beauport-Limoilou)
  • Daniel Petit (Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles)
  • Robert Goguen (Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe)
  • John Koury** (Nanaimo-Cowichan)
  • Julian Fantino (Vaughan)
  • Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell)

(** Update: I've recently been informed that John Koury has turned up at all-candidates' events, such as this one.)

La Presse also reports the cases of four Bloc candidates who were ducking debates:

  • Nicolas Dufour (Repentigny)
  • Claude Pilote (Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean)
  • Roger Pomerleau (Drummond)
  • Richard Côté (Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier)

[note: Incorrect and outdated information appeared here in an earlier version of this blog. I apologize for the error.]

The Globe and Mail names the following Conservatives who had skipped all-candidates events:

  • Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East) 
  • Diane Ablonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill)
  • Julian Fantino (Vaughan)
  • Ed Holder (London West)
  • Damian Konstantinakos (Ottawa Centre)
  • Chris Alexander (Ajax-Pickering)

Ed Holder (Conservative, London West) has also declined to attend this event at the University of Western Ontario. A local blogger/journalism professor wrote about his disappointment at seeing Holder, someone he respected, going 'AWOL.'

Both the Conservative (Elie Salibi) and the NDP (James McLaren) candidates skipped an all-candidates debate in Ottawa South.

Cheryl Gallant (Conservative, Nipissing-Pembroke) stormed out of a live radio all-candidates' debate, claiming it was illegitimate because the Green Party candidate was not there.

John Duncan (Conservative, Vancouver Island North) didn't attend a packed all-candidates' event in his riding. 

Marty Burke (Conservative, Guelph) skipped a capacity-crowd all-candidates' event at the University of Guelph.  He attended only two of seven debates held, and then showed up late at a third. His Liberal opponent has accused him of "avoiding debates." He cited a back injury as his reason for missing an event hosted by the Guelph Mercury, but was seen out actively campaigning the next day.

Marie Bountrogianni (Liberal) and Terry Anderson (Conservative) didn't attend an all-candidates' meeting in Hamilton Mountain sponsored by local labour groups.

Damian Konstantinakos (Conservative, Ottawa Centre) confirmed his attendance but then did not attend a debate on immigration and other issues facing new Canadians in his riding.

The Conservative, Bloc, and Green campaigns all failed to send candidates to another Ottawa debate on arts and culture.

The Conservative Party has declined to participate/send a representative to an all-party debate on post-secondary education in Ottawa.

Pierre Poilievre (Conservative, Nepean-Carleton) missed an event hosted by the Egyptian Canadian Cultural Association in Ottawa.

Gordon O'Connor, Royal Galipeau and Elie Salibi (Ottawa Conservatives) all skipped debates on Rogers television. O'Connor also missed two events at local high schools.

Royal Galipeau (Conservative, Ottawa-Orléans) declined to attend two other events, but did attend one other all-candidates' forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. His NDP opponent, Martine Cenutas, has also made herself scarce during the campaign. 

Leanna Villella (Conservative, Welland) cited a business commitment to explain her absence from an all-candidates' meeting. (video) She declined to attend another event hosted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees due to the "setting of the forum."

Stephen Woodworth (Conservative, Kitchener Centre) and Peter Braid (Conservative, Kitchener-Waterloo) declined invitations to a forum on refugee and immigrant concerns. Woodward said he had other obligations and Braid said he preferred to meet one-on-one with constituents. Woodworth and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney met separately with the group organizing the event on April 11. Braid also declined a previously-confirmed all-candidates' meeting at the University of Waterloo because it conflicts with Stephen Harper's tour stop in Kitchener-Waterloo. Conservative candidates also declined to attend another forum on arts and culture issues.

LaVar Payne (Conservative, Medicine Hat) didn't attend an "environment and social justice" debate due to "having other priorities." No other party representative was made available.

Patrick Brown (Conservative, Barrie) declined to attend a debate at a local United Church, saying that the moderator was "biased."

Michelle Rempel (Conservative, Calgary Centre-North) didn't attend an all-candidates' meeting at the University of Calgary but previously had attended other events. When she missed a second event, organizers replaced her with a potted plant.

Conservative candidates in Calgary aren't attending forums organized by the Just Vote campaign for citizen engagement, including Rob Anders (Calgary West), Devinder Shory (Calgary Northeast), and Diane Albonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill).

Deepak Obhrai (Conservative, Calgary East) also is refusing opportunities to debate his opponents, including missing the first debate of the campaign and cancelling one later in the campaign.

Rob Anders (Conservative, Calgary West) and Shawna Knowles (NDP, Calgary West) missed one event and their refusal to attend another led to its cancellation.

Phil McColeman (Conservative, Brant) did not attend a debate/discussion hosted at another local United Church.

Wally Daudrich (Conservative, Churchill) did not attend a forum hosted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for First Nations voters.

The Winnipeg Free Press' Don Lett reports on difficulties all candidates' debate organizers have had in Winnipeg trying to get Conservative representatives to attend. Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) is mentioned as one declining to attend some events. An environment forum was one of the events all Conservative candidates missed.

Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry is publicizing the absence of her Conservative opponent, Jennifer Clarke, from several events in her riding. Clarke's campaign countered with a press release about Fry's absences from the House of Commons. One of our readers confirms Clarke was also absent at another event on foreign policy sponsored by Engineers Without Borders. Other Conservative candidates, Andrew Saxton and Wai Young, were invited to attend in her absence and also declined.

Andrew Saxton (Conservative, North Vancouver) has missed two all-candidates' events at Capilano University. 

Kevin Moore (Conservative, Toronto Centre) cited a scheduling conflict in refusing to attend an all-candidates' debate hosted by the riding's gay and lesbian community.

Randy Hoback (Conservative) and Ron Wassill (Liberal) did not attend an all-candidates' forum in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on April 20.

hillyer-300.jpgJim Hillyer (Conservative, Lethbridge) has issued this statement to explain his absences from future all-candidates' forums, after previously attending an event at the University of Lethbridge where different individuals report he'd faced some opposition: 

After very careful thought and consideration the campaign team has determined that rather than having Jim spend his time engaged in partisan bickering, the best way for him to reach out to constituents is to spend his time out in the various communities, knocking on doors and speaking with people on a more personal level... In order to maximize the time he has to do this, Jim will not be attending any further forums during the campaign.

Susan Truppe (Conservative, London-North Centre) has skipped events at the public library and a local high school. Also missing at another all-candidates' event in London, in addition to Truppe, were Liberals Glen Pearson and Roger Caranci, Conservative Jim Chahbar, and New Democrat Fred Sinclair.

Ronald Leung (Conservative, Burnaby-Douglas) is avoiding media interviews and cited a "doorknocking appointment" as a reason to skip an all-candidates' meeting.

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports that the sight of Conservative Kelly Block at a federal election forum is 'as elusive as Bigfoot.' More recently she missed a community association event so she could attend a pizza party for her volunteers,

Fred Slade (Conservative, Sudbury) did not participate in an all-candidates discussion hosted by Northern Life and the CBC. He also missed an all-candidates' event hosted by the Greater Sudbury Social Planning Council.

Larry Miller (Conservative, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) did not attend an all-candidates' meeting at the Owen Sound library and another debate later in the campaign in Woodford.

Bev Pitura (Conservative, Winnipeg Centre) has reportedly missed at least two events, including the one mentioned here.

Dona Cadman (Conservative, Surrey North) missed this debate with a local BIA, and her NDP opponents allege she's been ducking debates and avoiding media interviews for the entire campaign. Cadman as well as Nina Grewal (Conservative, Fleetwood-Port Kells) were accused by Surrey Now of "dodging democracy" with flimsy excuses and refusing to return calls. An organizer of one of the few, if not the only, all-candidates' meeting in Fleetwood-Port Kells wrote us separately and confirmed that Grewal would not attend. This article refers to Grewal missing her all-candidates' meeting but suggests she is doing some media interviews.

Jillian Saweczko (Conservative, York South Weston) has missed two all-candidates debates.

Gerald Keddy (Conservative, South Shore-St. Margaret's) has missed up to four events, including two referenced here. In one case, he chose to attend a private fundraiser with Senator Mike Duffy instead of participating in the campaign debate.

Guy Jonas (Conservative, Laurentides-Labelle) declined an invitation to attend this event for anglophones in his riding.

Jay Aspin (Conservative, Nipissing-Temiskaming) cited a late invitation and an already-booked schedule for his choice to attend a meeting about the long-gun registry instead of an all-candidates debate in Powassan.

Katarina von Koenig (Conservative), as well as NDP Leader Jack Layton, did not attend an all-candidates' meeting in Toronto-Danforth. This coverage notes that Layton hasn't participated in all-candidates' meetings for the last three elections, due to his national tour commitments. (To be fair, Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper do not appear to be scheduling their leader's tours around local all-candidates' debates either.)

Blake Richards (Conservative, Wild Rose) missed an all-candidates' forum in Banff, although he has attended other events. One reader wrote me that another event in Cochrane was cancelled when he declined to attend.

Laurie Hawn (Conservative, Edmonton Centre) told CTV news that "you just can't do them all" to explain why he did not attend an all-candidates' forum on Aboriginal issues. He has also declined to attend an event on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered issues.

Trey Caperhurst (Green, Edmonton East) wrote to tell us that over three campaigns of running against Peter Goldring (Conservative), she has never seen him attend an all-candidates' forum where they could debate each other.

Rodney Weston (Conservative, Saint John) cited a prior commitment preventing him from attending a candidates' debate at a local high school. The Liberal candidate, Stephen Chase, also declined due to a conflict with a local event featuring Michael Ignatieff. The Green candidate, Sharon Murphy-Flatt also gave the event a miss.

Gord Brown (Conservative, Leeds-Grenville) has attended other events but skipped an all-candidates' meeting in Seeley's Bay "because of another engagement." Seeley's Bay is close to the location of the former Joyceville prison farm -- its closure was controversial and could have been a heated topic of debate.

Dave Van Kesteren (Conservative, Chatham-Kent-Essex) refused to participate in a debate hosted by local unions, but has agreed to events with farmers and the chamber of commerce. 

Stephen Hill (Conservative, Southern Interior) did not attend an all-candidates' forum in Grand Forks despite previously confirming his attendance. He's under fire for comments made in February at a public forum where he told those present to "go home and scrub with bleach", implying that some of those present were "unwashed." He claims he intended the comment as a joke. Hill claims he will attend other events.   

David Wilks (Conservative, Kootenay-Columbia) only attended four of the seven all-candidates' events in his riding. A reader tells us that he missed events in the three largest centres in the riding: Revelstoke, Cranbrook and Kimberley. Another reader wrote to say he had 'stood up' a 'packed house' in Invermere. He has issued a statement to explain his absences, which reads in part:

Immediately following the election call my schedule filled up with requests for my attendance at events across the riding. Thanks to volunteers and supporters my schedule was set. Due to the vast number of requests and size of the riding it was impossible for me to attend every single all candidate forums.

Sandy Lee (Conservative, Western Arctic) did not attend a forum at a local high school because of a "scheduling conflict." 

Joyce Bateman (Conservative, Winnipeg South Centre) was absent from a debate at a local high school.

All Conservative candidates were absent at a forum organized by the Iranian Canadian Congress in North York.

Liz Walker (Green, Newton-North Delta) missed an all-candidates' meeting in North Delta.

Leslie Parsons (NDP, Dufferin-Caledon) was a no-show at events in Orangeville and Shelbourne.

Sangeeta Lalli (Liberal, Cariboo-Prince George) missed the only all-candidates' event in Prince George.

Gary Schellenberger (Conservative) and Irma DeVries (Christian Heritage) will not attend a debate on arts and culture issues in Perth-Wellington.

Kellie Leitch (Conservative, Simcoe-Grey) missed an all-candidates event in Thornbury in favour of a campaign event with Senator Pamela Wallin. She also missed a debate at a high school. Earlier in the campaign, Leitch received a threat about showing up at another all-candidates' debate.

Nicole Yovanoff (NDP, Don Valley West) was labelled a 'mystery' candidate by the Toronto Star, which mentioned her absence from an all-candidates' meeting in its story about her very limited participation in this campaign. 

Ruth Ellen Brosseau (NDP, Berthier-Maskinongé) missed an all-candidates' meeting because she was vacationing in Las Vegas.

Isabelle Maguire (NDP, Richmond-Arthabaska) also missed an all-candidates' meeting because she's on a trip to France.

Anastasia Zavarella (NDP) and Jeffrey Streutker (Christian Heritage) have been absent from multiple all-candidates' meetings in Wellington-Halton Hills.

Larry Smith (Conservative, Lac-St-Louis) and Agop Evereklian (Conservative, Pierrefonds-Dollard) missed an all-candidates event at John Abbott College (an English Cegep in Montreal's West Island.) The BQ candidates also did not attend. 

Mark Warawa (Conservative, Langley) missed an all-candidates event at a seniors centre  because he was canvassing at a different seniors' residence.

Wai Young (Conservative, Vancouver South) has missed an all-candidates event and avoided some media interviews while giving preferential access to others at private events.

Corina Ganton (Liberal, Peace River) has missed weeknight all-candidate events in her riding -she lives and works in Edmonton and has not taken time off to campaign.

Matthew Sinclair (Liberal, Edmonton-Strathcona) has missed an all-candidates event and media opportunity, citing his university exams as a conflict with these campaign demands.

Mark Strahl (Conservative, Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon) dodged a half-dozen all-candidates' meetings in his riding. He reportedly attended some closed all-candidates' meetings but declined to attend a public event due to "previously scheduled campaign commitments."

Cathy McLeod (Conservative, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo) missed an all-candidates' debate at a local television station, saying she didn't want to attend unless Green and Christian Heritage candidates were included. 

Lawrence Cannon (Conservative, Pontiac) missed an all-candidates' event in WakefieldMaude Tremblay (Bloc Québécois, Pontiac) also missed this meeting as well as another event in Campbell's Bay earlier in the campaign. 

Catherine Chaulk-Stokes (NDP) and Joshua Lund (Green) missed an all-candidates debate in Edmonton-Spruce Grove, leaving only the Liberal candidate to debate Conservative incumbent Rona Ambrose.

Bev Oda (Conservative, Durham) declined several events, including the second of only two public all-candidates meetings held.

Diane Finley (Conservative) and Ian Nichols (NDP) missed the final all-candidates' meeting in Haldimand-Norfolk.


Note: Alheli Picazo at has started a similar list, which overlaps with this one. However, because she does not cite her sources, I am unable to verify all the examples she suggests. The NDP candidate in North Vancouver has also blogged another list of Conservatives refusing to attend forums, again without citing sources. 

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