Would-be Conservative leaders pitch ideas in Montreal debate
Published Monday, February 13, 2017 8:54PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 14, 2017 7:50AM EST
Eleven of the 14 candidates to become the next leader of the Conservative Party debated each other, in both languages, Monday in Montreal's West Island.
They faced questions about budget, debts, conservative values and marijuana legalization -- and showed that between them, there are considerable differences in how some of those issues should be faced.
Maxime Bernier was applauded when he said that supply management, the system under which Canada's dairy farmers are guaranteed a price for milk, should be abolished. Steven Blaney believes the system should be maintained.
Kevin O'Leary -- who did not take part in the first French Conservative debate, but spoke some French Monday -- pointed out his ties to Montreal, including being born here and his son studying at McGill University.
O'Leary was in favour of legalizing marijuana, and said it was one way, along with supporting abortion and the rights of non-heterosexuals, that Conservatives could appeal to voters in their twenties.
Blaney opposed legalizing marijuana, saying "I don't think Canadians should be guinea pigs." He was booed for saying so.
Lisa Raitt said the budget should be balance and that she "would not do that on the backs of people who work hard."
She also needled O'Leary for focusing on himself in his statements, instead of talking about "we" and what the Conservative party can do.
Chris Alexander said Canada must fight deficits, and he would do so while encouraging prudent government spending that encourages key sectors, such as the federal loan to Bombardier announced last week.
Andrew Saxton said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was destroying the economy and he could do better.
Andrew Scheer said the Conservatives needed to focus on cities, not just rural areas where they have strong support.
Kellie Leitch said her ideas were based on common sense, opposing carbon taxes and protecting those who needed protection -- while subjecting refugees and immigrants to a screening process to determine their values.
"Justin Trudeau thinks you're the fringe. He's the fringe," she said to some applause.
Candidates Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux were in the room, but were not allowed to take part in the debate.