Four takeaways from the first debate on Conservative leadership

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OTTAWA –
The four people who wanted to become the next leader of the Federal Conservative Party clashed in the first debate Wednesday evening, in French. Erin O’Toole, Peter MacKay, Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis spoke about their policies and visions of where they would take sides as they sought to define themselves and gain support.

Here are the four main points to remember:

1) IT STARTED LATE

The debate was to begin at 7 p.m. AND at a hotel in Toronto but it was 40 minutes later before things started. With the four candidates who showed up long after the scheduled start time, the home audience – who, given the restrictions of COVID-19 was the only audience – received elevator music jaunty pending the main event.

CTVNews.ca asked the party what was causing the late start, but at the time of filing it did not hear the official word, although some suggested that the reason was technical problems.

2) LANGUAGE LIMITATIONS

Once the debate started, the candidates’ command of French was quickly put to the test. There was no simultaneous translation available to participants, so they each had to rely on their own language skills to navigate the discussion, and some were easier than others.

While MacKay and O’Toole spoke French with more limited use of notes, Sloan and Lewis relied heavily on prepared remarks. In the case of Lewis, this sometimes led to answering questions from his opponents with comments on an entirely different subject.

When asked how she thought she got away with communicating in French, Lewis told reporters after the debate that it was “very scary”, but said that she thought she had behaved well. “I am glad I did it,” she said. “I’m just new to the language. ”

O’Toole sought to temper expectations from the start, saying in his opening remarks that he would likely make mistakes during the debate, but he plans to continue improving his French.

Likewise, Sloan has vowed to be bilingual in the next federal election.

3) RECURRING UNIT EXPERIENCES AND SUBJECTS

During the discussion, O’Toole and MacKay took turns questioning each other’s experience and background, to the point that the moderator made an effort to involve Sloan and Lewis in the discussion.

O’Toole sought to present himself as a leader “for the future” and not as a career politician, while MacKay said he would be best placed to lead the party in the next election, which he said he would like to happen sooner rather than later.

MacKay has repeatedly sought to argue that he had the most experience in hitting the ground during an election campaign, as well as experience in getting the COVID-19 crisis through the country, citing his term in government during from the last recession.

O’Toole said it will be important that in September, when the House of Commons resumes in earnest, there is a party leader in the House to hold Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to account during the post-COVID economic recovery- 19, noting that MacKay has no seat.

MacKay, on the other hand, said that he was not running to be in the opposition, he was running to defeat the Liberals, calling O’Toole “Erin Trudeau” at one point.

4) BATTLE LINES DRAWN ON SOCIAL MATTERS

Conservative social issues and how each candidate would approach them was a recurring aspect of the debate. As evidenced by the struggles of outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer during the 2019 federal election campaign, the party’s messages and position on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage remain hot issues that divide party members.

Some feel that their voices are not heard, while others have argued that it is time to go beyond these conversations to attract more moderate voters.

Both Sloan and Lewis made it as clear as possible during the debate that they would be the voice of those who are socially conservative, while questioning the positions and results of MacKay and O’Toole’s previous votes.

It is also on these subjects that MacKay and O’Toole clashed, O’Toole accusing MacKay of pushing people away with his previous comments of “stinking albatrosses” and of reversing his approach to conscience rights and free votes for MPs, while MacKay accused O’Toole of changing his position depending on who he is talking to.

The debate in English begins Thursday at 7 p.m. AND. CTVNews.ca will be broadcast live.

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