Conservative Party leadership candidates Leslyn Lewis, Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan will debate in French on June 17, 2020. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservative party leadership hopefuls face off for the first time tonight

French debate kicks off leadership bid

OTTAWA — Four federal Conservative party leadership candidates face off against each other for the first time tonight in a race that’s been repeatedly upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tonight’s debate, being held in French, will be followed by another one tomorrow in English, both taking place in downtown Toronto and livestreamed online.

None of the four candidates — Leslyn Lewis, Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan — are fluently bilingual.

So tonight’s debate will be a key indicator if any of them can adequately manage to debate the issues in one of the country’s official languages.

MacKay’s French is expected to be under the microscope, with his campaign having made several mistakes earlier on in the race that made him the subject of much mockery in Quebec.

But eyes are also on Lewis, the lone non-politician of the bunch who has been steadily gaining support in recent days, and the debate marks a debut of sorts for her in the broader public eye.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2020.

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