EDITORIAL – As would-be leaders skip debate, Conservative party falls apart

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WHEN CANDIDATES skip a debate, it’s usually because they know they’re winning and are either too arrogant or too worried about messing with their lead.

It’s happened here in the past. In 2009, BC Liberal candidates Terry Lake and Kevin Krueger declined to attend a debate hosted by local unions because they were “biased organizations.”

In 2013, Lake and Todd Stone opted out of a forum hosted by the Council of Canadians. There were others, as well.

Scheduling conflicts are the usual excuse but put yourself in the candidate’s shoes: if you’re in front, why put anything at risk, especially if it might not be a friendly crowd?

Which brings us to tomorrow night’s Conservative leadership debate, which will be ignored by both Pierre Poilievre and Leslyn Lewis. Both say they’ll be busy elsewhere and both face $50,000 fines by the party for not showing up.

The two candidates are in opposite situations. Poilievre, freshly endorsed by Stephen Harper, is a clear front runner, so he doesn’t need another debate to distinguish himself, and his opponents would likely use it to gang up on him.

Lewis, on the other hand, has no chance of becoming leader so her decision is surprising. Unable to get guarantees about the kinds of questions that will be asked (she wants things like COVID vaccines included), she’ll take her marbles and stay home. The party correctly takes the position that candidates can’t be allowed to dictate the questions.

Whatever the rationale, skipping out is an insult both to party members and to the democratic process. Candidates have a duty to stand up and be counted for their policies and attributes, not go into hiding.

At the rate the Conservative party is going, it will soon fall apart anyway. Poilievre is such a divisive influence there will almost certainly be a split, with more moderate, traditional Tories leaving to form their own party.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9510 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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