5 of 6 Conservative leadership candidates open to another debate

Most of the Conservative leadership contenders have expressed support for a third official debate, but the perceived front runner hasn't stated his position.

Pierre Poilievre the sole candidate who hasn't expressed support for another war of words

Conservative leadership candidates Jean Charest and Pierre Poilievre spar as Roman Baber, Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis look on during a debate at the Canada Strong and Free Network conference, in Ottawa, Thursday, May 5, 2022. All of the candidates except Poilievre have expressed support for another debate. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Five out of six Conservative leadership contenders have expressed support for a third official debate, with the perceived front-runner the sole holdout.

Leadership candidates Jean Charest, Patrick Brown, Leslyn Lewis, Roman Baber and Scott Aitchison publicly stated Wednesday that they're open to a third contest, but Pierre Poilievre hasn't weighed in yet.

The Party held two official debates in May, one in English and one in French. There was also an unofficial debate earlier in the month, hosted by the political advocacy group Canada Strong & Free Network — though Brown was absent.

Former Quebec premier Charest tweeted his support for a third official debate Wednesday morning.

"I welcome the opportunity for another #CPCLDR debate on policy ideas. Every candidate should welcome the chance to engage further with our members," Charest tweeted.

He also asked his fellow candidates if they'd join him on stage, and most expressed approval.

"Let's have another debate!" tweeted former Ontario MPP Baber.

"Canadians need to hear from us. But no Tom Clark this time," he added, expressing dissatisfaction with the moderator of the English debate, journalist Tom Clark.

Brown, the mayor of Brampton, said it's important that Conservative members get more insight into candidates' policies and ideas. In previous debates, candidates sparred over areas such as the rising cost of living, public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and foreign policy.

"I welcome and look forward to a third Conservative leadership debate," Brown said on Twitter.

"We need — and the membership deserves — a robust, transparent airing of policy positions and the various visions for the party's future in making up their minds on who is best to lead us going forward."

In a video posted to Twitter, Parry Sound—Muskoka MP Aitchison said a third debate would be a good way to speak to new party members. 

Party sources told CBC earlier this week that a record breaking number of members are expected to vote in the leadership race. The new leader will be announced Sept. 10.

"Thousands of Canadians across this country have joined our party, for the first time [for] many of them, and many of them don't know their leadership candidates so well," Aitchison said.

"So it'd be great to have a third debate on policy where we can talk about ideas that not only these new members of our party, but millions of Canadians across the country can hear."

Haldimand—Norfolk MP Lewis also expressed support for a third official debate in a tweet — but with a catch. 

"I'm always open to any debate that involves honest dialogue and isn't just an opportunity for public mud-slinging," she said. Some commentators have found the debates notable for their raucousness.

But Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, who is widely seen as the candidate to beat so far, has not joined the chorus.

A representative for Poilievre's campaign did not immediately respond to a CBC request for comment.

In a statement to CBC, Conservative Party President Robert Batherson said a decision on a third debate hasn't been made, but the party will take candidates' and members' thoughts into consideration.

"In mid-April 2022, the Conservative Party of Canada informed the leadership candidates that two official debates would be held in May and that we would reserve the right to schedule a third official debate in August," the statement reads.

"No decision on a third debate has been made at this time, but we are listening to Conservative Party members, including, but not limited to, the six leadership campaigns, on their views about hosting a third official debate."


Richard Raycraft

Web writer and producer

Richard is a web writer with CBC News and an associate producer with CBC Radio. He's worked at CBC in London, Ont., Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.