Tory Candidates Reportedly Urged To Skip Debates, Avoid Media

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Conservative candidates are reportedly being urged to skip all-candidates meetings and avoid talking to the media — a strategy the party employed four years ago en route to capturing a majority government.

Last week, Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor took to social media with the news that Toronto Tory Joe Daniel, running for re-election in Don Valley North, would not be responding to media interviews until after the October vote.

McGregor, who later filed a story on a trip Daniel and Sen. Don Meredith took to the Caribbean last January, posted audio to Soundcloud of Daniel's assistant declining his interview request.

Metro Toronto also picked up the story, with a staffer confirming that Daniel won't be doing interviews for the next two months.

But, according to The Toronto Star, Daniel is not alone.

A Tory source told The Star's Richard Brennan and Robert Benzie that "no debates and no media" is the informal message candidates — including some cabinet ministers — are getting from the party brass.

Earlier this week, a meeting Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had arranged with Tory candidates to discuss local issues had to be cancelled when nobody showed up. Watson has already met with Liberal and Green candidates and will also sit down with New Democrats.

Ottawa-area Tory candidate Pierre Poilievre has since agreed to a meeting with Watson in the coming weeks, with local Tory candidates.

And, in Alberta, Tory candidate Joan Crockatt was noticeably absent from an all-candidates debate Wednesday in the riding of Calgary Centre. Popular former MLA Kent Hehr is running for the federal Liberals and hoping to win in the traditional Tory fortress.

According to the Calgary Herald, Crockatt was attending her mom's birthday celebrations. A debate organizer told the Herald that multiple dates were suggested to candidates. The newspaper published a photo of Crockatt's empty chair.

A winning strategy?

In 2011, a large number of Tory candidates across the country were accused by rivals of ducking debates and avoiding the press, lest they say something that might hurt the party's re-election chances.

Many Tories cited scheduling conflicts or other commitments, but former MP Patrick Brown also expressed concerns that debate moderators at one event in Barrie were "biased."

Controversial Tory Cheryl Gallant was captured on video storming out of a debate in her riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, saying she refused to participate because the local Green candidate had been "barred."

And, when Michelle Rempel did not attend a debate in Calgary Centre-North, organizers put a potted plant on her empty seat instead.

CBC News compiled a list of Tories who faced criticism four years ago, including key names like Poilievre, Chris Alexander, Julian Fantino, and Ed Holder.

Brown, Gallant, Poilievre, Fantino, and Holder were all comfortably re-elected, while Rempel and Alexander were elected for the first time and later promoted to cabinet.

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