Conservative leadership candidates to face open mic questions at Ottawa riding event

First the candidates will serve desserts. Then the audience will serve up the questions.

It’s not one of the five official debates in the Conservative Party leadership race, but 10 of the leading contenders are today in Greely, Ont., south of Ottawa, making their pitch to be the next leader of the Opposition.

The Carleton Conservative Association says its lunch event Sunday — billed as the only chance area party members will have to hear from all the contenders in one place — has sold out.

The event, moderated by local MP and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre, is open to any member of the public who buys a ticket.

The questions for the debate portion of the afternoon have not been set in advance, organizers say. Instead, any member of the audience who wishes to ask something can put their name in a draw to get a turn at the microphone. The organizers intend to limit questions and responses to about 35 seconds to try to fit in as many as they can in the two-hour event.

Conservative leadership candidates — Saskatoon — Nov. 9, 2016

Conservative leadership candidates are introduced prior to the Saskatoon debate on Wednesday. Today’s debate takes place in Greely, Ont.

The wide-open format should hint at, not only the candidates’ ability to think on their feet and respond to the unexpected, but also the issues and priorities on the minds of the grassroots partisans likely to be voting next May to choose the next leader.

There is already a large field — 12 as of now, with two or three others possibly joining over the next few weeks leading up to the February deadline. The ranked-ballot format the party will use for this race means candidates must maximize their first-choice endorsements and also their ability to grow support among possible second- or third-choice supporters.

The first officially sanctioned debate in the race was held last Wednesday evening in Saskatoon, Sask.

There are four more party-organized debates to come, including the next one, a bilingual event planned for Moncton, N.B., on Dec. 6.

But over the next six months of campaigning other riding associations or Conservative groups could also organize forums like Sunday’s event in Greely to see the contenders interact face-to-face.

The 10 candidates attending Sunday’s event are:

  • Chris Alexander.
  • Maxime Bernier.
  • Michael Chong.
  • ​Kellie Leitch.
  • ​Deepak Obhrai.
  • ​Erin O’Toole.
  • Lisa Raitt.
  • Andrew Saxton.
  • Andrew Scheer.
  • ​Brad Trost.

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