Jim Prentice, Thomas Lukaszuk and Ric McIver were restrained in their speeches and while answering questions at the event organized by a Calgary rotary club two weeks before the Sept. 6 vote.
Prentice, a former federal cabinet minister from Calgary, has painted himself as the outsider during the campaign. Lukaszuk and McIver served in former premier Alison Redford's cabinet.
But when a question was asked suggesting "the old boy's club" has run the Alberta PC party for decades, the definition seemed to vary by candidate.
"I don't think they refer to chronology of age and if they do than I'm happy," said Lukaszuk, who is the youngest of the three candidates.
"What they are really referring to is the cadre of consultants, who tend to like to stick around campaigns when we have leadership races, and later on like to be very close to government ... and we've seen that movie before."
Lukaszuk said his campaign is being run entirely by volunteers and not a single consulting company.
Prentice suggested his hands are clean when it comes to the Redford government.
"Not surprisingly the 'old boys club' is about the old boys, isn't it?" said Prentice.
"I've tried over the course of my campaign to bring new people into political life."
McIver, who answered last, said he will clean house if he becomes leader.
"Unfortunately we just heard from the old boys club," he said, although he referred to his competitors as "fine young men."
"The fact is the old boys club is gathered around one particular campaign. It's not mine."
The civility ended after the debate when the candidates were asked about a promise by Prentice to introduce term limits for Alberta politicians if he becomes leader.
Prentice has said two terms for premiers and three for legislature members — limits that would be a first in Canada — would ensure a steady stream of fresh faces in government.
"This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard, and while the candidate was making that announcement, he should have been playing Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" as a background drop," said Lukaszuk.
McIver said it is the voter — not one individual — who gets to decide who gets elected.
"The idea of not letting the voters decide who sits in their legislative assembly is offensive to me. The ultimate entitlement is an elected person deciding who else gets to sit in elected office."
Prentice said limits do make sense.
"Politics is about public service. It's not about a job and these kind of limits work well in other democracies."
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