The Pierre Poilievre campaign has announced that the perceived frontrunner will not be participating in the third Conservative leadership debate in August. Meanwhile, leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis is questioning the party’s decision to hold another debate.

Shortly after the Conservative Party announced another English debate, the Poilieve campaign scolded the party’s decision and ripped the highly criticized English language debate in Edmonton moderated by Tom Clark.

“The Party chose a Laurentian elite liberal media personality to moderate the Edmonton debate,” reads Poilievre’s statement.

“Rather than address public policy issues, he asked pointless questions like ‘What book are you reading’ and ‘what are you binge-watching on TV?’ He played a sad trombone sound when a candidate or the audience didn’t comply with his stupid rules. It was more of a game show than a debate.”

Leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis also had reservations about the third debate, saying that her current campaign strategy is more effective in spreading her message than a debate would be.

“I have planned out an extremely packed schedule in order to maximize the amount of Conservative members I can meet face-to-face and hear from. I am not convinced that a high-level debate will cover new ground, or be watched by many members,” Lewis said in a statement.

“I am not sure what value we are giving the membership through a hastily scheduled debate at this time.”

The Conservative Party announced on Thursday that they will be hosting another leadership debate in August after leadership candidate Jean Charest requested it, claiming most campaigns wanted another debate. 

According to the party’s rules, candidates are not allowed to skip official party debates and will be fined $50,000 if they choose to do so. The Poilievre campaign did not comment on the prospect of a fine, instead focusing on the get-out-the-vote period. 

“The Party’s proposed third debate is smack dab in the middle of the get out the vote period. As we have stated publicly, Pierre’s campaign sold 311,958 memberships. The sole objective of the campaign now is to get new members and existing members to fill out their ballots and submit them before the September deadline,” the Poilievre campaign said. 

The Poilievre campaign also took a shot at Charest, mocking the former Quebec premier’s thin crowds at campaign stops and accusing him of trying to leech off of Poilievre’s popularity. 

“Jean Charest has had a hard time getting even a couple dozen people to his campaign events. That is why he wants another debate – to use Pierre’s popularity with the members to bring out an audience he can’t get on his own.”

Charest fired back at the Poilievre campaign, saying that the Carleton MP is attempting to dodge tough questions and would rather post flattering social media content.

“The majority of leadership candidates, with the exception of Mr. Poilievre, agree that a third debate is in the best interest of members,” reads Charest’s statement.

“Mr. Charest is running to be the future leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Prime Minister of Canada. When you are in that role and honoured with that privilege, you are expected to answer the tough questions and hold yourself accountable to the Canadian electorate – not to hide.”

While the Poilieve campaign pointed to the Edmonton debate as an example of a failed debate organized by the party, the Charest campaign pointed to the French language debate in Laval, Quebec, as an example of a successful debate. 

“The format of the Laval debate was constructive and allowed for a discussion on key issues that our members – and all Canadians – are facing.”

The party’s president Robert Batherson confirmed to CTV’s Evan Solomon that the third debate is “officially sanctioned and the rules will be applied accordingly.”

“We encourage all campaigns to respect the rules they agreed to,” Batherson said. 

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