New Brunswick

14 Conservative leadership candidates debate in Moncton

The 14 candidates for the Conservative Party leadership will debate in Moncton tonight.

Leadership race is only party's second after 2004 campaign

The 14 candidates for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party will debate tonight in Moncton, one of five debates the party will hold during the campaign.

The leadership race is only the party's second after the 2004 campaign that chose Stephen Harper. The former prime minister faced only two other candidates, none of whom are running this time around.

Rob Moore, the Conservative opposition critic for Atlantic Canada, said the large field of candidates is a mixed blessing.

"It is a challenge having 14 candidates," Moore said. "I think it's a good sign that there's a lot of interest in the leadership of the party."

A challenge for the candidates will be the limited time they will have to get their point across, only 50 seconds. Moore doesn't think this is a problem.

"It's up to them to cut right to the point and to get their platform, their agenda out there for people to pass judgment on  and I think 50 seconds, if they construct it correctly, they can pack a lot into that time," said Moore.

The party and Atlantic Canada

Rob Moore, the Conservative opposition critic for Atlantic Canada, expects the candidates to focus heavily on the region. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Atlantic Canada wasn't kind to the Conservatives in the last election, with the Liberals sweeping every seat in the region. Moore, who lost his Fundy Royal seat, expects a greater focus on Atlantic Canada during the leadership campaign.

"We should see the candidates in Atlantic Canada quite a bit and that's a good thing for our region," said Moore.

The debate will also be the first to be held in both official languages, with some questions being in English and some in French. Moore said this could give some candidates a boost.

"That's going to be a chance for some to showcase their abilities in both languages," he said. "So, it will add a new dynamic to the debate."

Candidates court controversy

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch sparked controversy after advocating a "Canadian values test" for immigrants. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

The leadership race has already seen its share of controversy, much coming from candidate and Ontario MP Kellie Leitch who has advocated a "Canadian values test." The move, which was seen as being inspired by U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, was condemned by fellow candidates Michael Chong and Deepak Obhrai.

Moore said this is all part of the process, and he isn't concerned the controversy will fracture the party.

"If you're a national party, you're going to have wide-ranging views amongst your leadership contestants, and this is an opportunity for party members as well as Canadians to hear those views, to have that healthy debate," said Moore.

"It wouldn't be much of a debate if they all had the exact same position on every issue."

Conservatives will elect a new leader on May 27.

The debate will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Moncton at 7:30 p.m. AT. There's a $20 admission.

Watch the debate on CBC News Network, followed by Rosemary Barton and the Power Panel.

It will also be livestreamed online on cbcnews.ca, YouTube and Facebook.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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