Jean Charest pushes the Conservative Party for a third leadership debate

Federal Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest is pressing the party to decide whether to hold a third debate for contenders seeking the top job.

As he does so, the former Quebec premier is turning his attention to winning over members of the country’s racialized and newly arrived communities. Many came to the party by supporting Patrick Brown, whose disqualification puts their votes on the line.

Charest posed the debate question in a tweet Wednesday afternoon addressed to party bosses and members of the committee setting the rules of the race.

The leadership election organizing committee was expected to meet later, where a decision was anticipated to be made.

Without naming names, Charest says all but one of the remaining campaigns is in favor of the party hosting a third debate.

Many of its newer members also want one, he added.

“Let’s show Canadians our plan for the future.”

The party’s decision to remove Brown from the race on a charge that he may have violated federal election laws has prompted Charest to begin making direct appeals to members of the immigrant communities Brown woos.

A former Brown’s organizer from the Filipino community posted a short video on Facebook Wednesday following a meeting with Charest, including a clip of the candidate himself.

@JeanCharest_ is lobbying the Conservative Party for a third leadership debate. #CDNPoli #ConservativeLeadership #CPC

In the video, Charest says that Canada is a lucky nation because it receives immigrants from all over the world.

“I am thinking in particular of those of you who are from the Filipino community and who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” he says.

He goes on to say that the country needs more immigrants from the Philippines and that more needs to be done to recognize their foreign credentials for them to enter the workforce.

Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for Charest, said that while the former prime minister appreciates Brown’s endorsement of the race, “he doesn’t take anything for granted.”

“Mr. Charest has always believed that Canada’s multicultural identity is one of its greatest strengths. It is an honor to meet with members of the community to listen to their concerns and share their solutions,” he said.

Charest’s outreach and call for another debate comes as party members have begun voting for their next leader, and the party has begun validating ballots that have been returned.

The party is looking at a voter list with more than 670,000 names, which is more than double the size when members elected Erin O’Toole to lead the Conservatives in 2020.

The official results of this race will be announced in Ottawa on September 10.

Party brass have been dealing with the fallout from disqualifying Brown, but last week they emailed party members asking if they wanted another debate.

Along with Charest, candidates Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber have voiced support for a third debate.

The Leslyn Lewis campaign recently said she was traveling the country meeting with members, but would attend a third debate if the party decided to hold one.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the campaign of Pierre Poilievre, the presumed contest favorite, has yet to respond to a request for his thoughts on another debate.

Poilievre recently skipped a scheduled unofficial debate while the candidates were in the conservative heartland of Alberta for the Calgary Stampede.

Party rules say it is mandatory for candidates to attend official debates. They could be fined for not showing up.

Members watched the candidates perform at two party-sanctioned debates in May. The debate in English took place in Edmonton, followed by a debate in French in Laval, Que.

The party told campaigns they could expect the candidates to be called up again for a possible third debate in early August.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 20, 2022.

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