Candidates vying for Conservative leadership to meet for first debates in May

Candidates running to become the Conservative Party of Canada’s next permanent leader are expected to face off in a trio of debates in May.

The field of candidates will be locked in place by the end of April

Conservative leadership candidates (left to right) Leslyn Lewis, Patrick Brown, Jean Charest and Pierre Poilievre. (Sean Kilpatrick, Chris Young, Justin Tang, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Candidates running to become the Conservative Party of Canada's next permanent leader are expected to face off in three debates in May.

The first official English debate organized by the party's Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) is scheduled for May 11 at 8 p.m. ET in Edmonton.

A French debate will follow on May 25 at 8 p.m. in Montreal.

A memo sent to candidates last week and obtained by CBC News indicates that a format for the debates has not yet been set. Candidates will receive a list of topics one week before each debate.

"We look forward to spirited but respectful discourse, and thank all candidates for putting their names forward to benefit our party, and all Canadians," says the memo from LEOC debate committee chair Rick Ekstein.

The LEOC also says in the memo that it is "reserving the right" to host another debate in early August.

The leading candidates are also expected to take part in an unofficial debate on May 5 in Ottawa at a conference organized by the Canada Strong and Free Network, the conservative advocacy group formerly known as the Manning Centre.

Tickets to the conference — which advertises itself as a gathering of Canadians in support of limited government, free enterprise and personal responsibility — start at nearly $400.

At least 11 people have announced intentions to seek the leadership, but as of April 11, only six names are on the party's official list of candidates.

All candidates must pay the full $300,000 entry fee by April 29 to qualify for the contest. The party will choose its next leader at a convention on Sept. 10.

Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest, Patrick Brown and Leslyn Lewis are widely considered the front-runners in the race to replace outgoing leader Erin O'Toole.

The field is rounded out by Conservative MPs Marc Dalton and Scott Aitchison; former MP Leona Alleslev; Independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber; businesspeople Joseph Bourgault and Bobby Singh; and former Conservative candidate Joel Etienne.


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