On May 27, the federal Conservative Party will elect a new leader to replace Stephen Harper and until then a crowded field of 14 candidates is touring the country, holding public forums to lay claim to their bids.
Ten of the 14 declared candidates squared off in Winnipeg as the traveling road show hit the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre on Donald Street Thursday evening. Organized by the Elmwood Transcona Progressive Conservative Riding Association, the two-hour debate was moderated by Rod Bruinooge, the former Tory MP for Winnipeg South.
Absent were celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary, along with Chris Alexander, Kellie Leitch and Erin O'Toole.
Interestingly, O'Leary wasn't invited to the Winnipeg debate, an organizer said. The party hasn't processed his candidacy papers and until that happens he's a declared candidate but not an official candidate, according to P.C. Party rules.
O’Leary declared his candidacy on a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday.
Dubbed Canada’s Donald Trump, O'Leary is a celebrity businessman with a knack for catchy quotes and, like Trump, he revels in the fact he’s never held public office and can say he is a political outsider.
The Progressive Conservative website listed 13 leadership candidates as of Thursday. Again, no O'Leary, a status reflecting his late entry into the race.
The other 13 candidates include a group of former Harper cabinet ministers with brand name recognition, and others who still working at building up public profiles. In alphabetical order, they are: Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Leitch, Pierre Lemieux, Deepak Obhrai, O’Toole, Rick Peterson, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Saxton, Andrew Scheer and Brad Trost.