Kellie Leitch skips Conservative leadership forum after incident at her home

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch departed a campaign event on Sunday after an incident at her home earlier in the weekend.

It was not one of the five official debates in the Conservative Party leadership race, but nine other contenders were in Greely, Ont., south of Ottawa, making their pitch to be the next leader of the Opposition.

Leitch attended the lunch portion of the event and spoke to those who purchased tickets, but she left before the other candidates took to the stage for the debate. There was no official announcement to the crowd explaining why.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesman for Leitch said she needed to be back in Toronto this afternoon due to an incident at her home.

“Unfortunately that meant she had to leave the Ottawa event before its completion,” wrote Bradley Breton. “I am not at liberty to discuss any more details at this time.”

Nick Kouvalis, Leitch’s campaign manager, told members of the campaign team in an email that the garage at Leitch’s home was broken into after someone claimed to be distributing the Conservative MP’s address.

Conservative Leadership Debate 20161109

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch participated in the lunch portion of Sunday’s event but then left, without explaining to those in attendance or the other leadership candidates why she was not participating in the debate. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

An OPP spokesman said officers responded to an incident on Saturday morning at a residence belonging to an unnamed politician.

“The Huronia West OPP did at approximately 1:55 am on Nov. 12, 2016, respond to a reported break and enter at a residence in the Creemore area belonging to a local politician,” said Sgt. Peter Leon.

“Upon arrival, Huronia West OPP members investigated this incident and found that no break and enter occurred although the residential alarm did sound.”

Event oversold

The Carleton Conservative Association said its lunch event Sunday — billed as the only chance local party members will have to hear from all the contenders in one place — sold out and the room in the small conference facility was packed.

The candidates in attendance fielded questions on a wide array of topics, including climate change, firearms regulation engaging millennials, defence spending and nuclear energy.

The nine candidates who participated in the debate were: Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong, ​Deepak Obhrai, ​Erin O’Toole, Lisa Raitt. Andrew Saxton, Andrew Scheer and Brad Trost.

Steven Blaney and Dan Lindsay were the two candidates who did not attend.

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

None of the questions for the debate portion of the afternoon were set in advance, organizers said, although some were suggested on Poilievre’s social media feeds. A raffle chose members of the audience to ask their own questions. 

Conservative leadership candidates — Saskatoon — Nov. 9, 2016

All 12 of the current candidates for the Conservative Party leadership were in Saskatoon, Sask. Wednesday for the first of five party-organized debates. Some riding associations and Conservative groups are organizing other events, such as the one Sunday in south Ottawa.

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.

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, in order to see the contenders interact face-to-face.

If a candidate skips one of the party-organized debates, he or she will be fined $10,000. But there was no penalty for Leitch’s departure Sunday.

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