Peter MacKay is skipping in the Conservative leadership debate organized by the Independent Press Gallery in solidarity with Leslyn Lewis’ earache.
The inaugural event put together by the new journalist organization headed by True North’s Candice Malcolm was to feature all four candidates, Leslyn Lewis, Erin O’Toole, Derek Sloan and MacKay in a traditional debate format Wednesday night in a downtown Toronto hotel conference room.
However, Lewis withdrew early Wednesday due to medical issues. She made the announcement on Twitter, saying,
“I am unable to take part in tonight's debate being put on by the IPG due to a medical issue”
Last Thursday, Lewis explained she had to cancel at virtual townhall because of an ear infection that has now become a “serious issue.”
“The infection however remained serious and in a follow-up appointment on Monday I was strongly advised by a specialist not to go to any events in public, as this would significantly increase the chances of me contracting COVID-19.”
She also said she has has a COVID-19 test which came back negative.
MacKay, not one to miss a chance to avoid conservative journalists, seized the opportunity to drop out too, explaining in a statement:
“I have great respect for Dr. Lewis and the positive and constructive campaign she has run. That’s why I propose that this debate be rescheduled. To be fair to all, I will not participate in a debate where she is not present.
I was preparing for the debate when I learned that Dr. Lewis could not participate. I was looking forward to taking part in tonight’s debate to articulate my positive vision for the future of the Conservative Party and because of the role the Independent Press Gallery is taking in promoting free and fair speech.
Out of respect for Dr. Lewis and Conservative party members, I propose to the Independent Press Gallery that the debate be rescheduled at the earliest possible opportunity and in a virtual format.”
Lewis’s campaign said MacKay’s gesture was unnecessary and wanted to make it clear that they did not ask MacKay to step aside, missing his second of four debates, both of which were organized by conservatives.
In response to two candidates dropping out of the debate — one because of illness and the other because any excuse will do — the IPG switched the debate to a more informal fireside chat format, with True North’s Andrew Lawton holding separate conversations before a media scrum with Sloan and O’Toole to follow.
A statement from the IPG, saying the show must go on hinted that they weren’t exactly buying MacKay’s excuse:
“Dr. Leslyn Lewis had to withdraw from tonight’s debate because a doctor ordered her to stay home and get rest. We have been in touch with her campaign and wish her a speedy recovery.
Peter MacKay lives in Toronto but has chosen not to attend tonight’s debate.
We’re going ahead with the event. We will be speaking with the candidates who have gone to great length and expense to come in to talk about their ideas. Instead of a debate, we will have two fireside chats back to back, with a media scrum following the conversations.”