Students at Huron University College wanted answers from their Conservative candidate Monday, but they ended up directing their questions to an empty chair.
Susan Truppe, the Conservative incumbent in the Ontario riding of London North Centre, was the only federal party candidate to decline participation in a debate organized by the school.
NDP candidate German Gutierrez, Liberal candidate Peter Fragiskatos and Green Party candidate Carol Dyck all participated in the event organized to encourage youth participation in elections.
Fragiskatos and Dyck both weighed in on Truppe’s noticeable absence.
"If you aren't showing up to public meetings, it means you aren't supporting democracy" - @pfragiskatos on lack of Conservative attendance— devoteduwo (@devoteduwo) September 22, 2015
"This isn't a fair situation for smaller parties who want to have their voices heard." -@CarolDyckGPC on lack of Conservative attendance— devoteduwo (@devoteduwo) September 22, 2015
But the frustration over Truppe’s lack of participation boiled into laughter as soon as the moderator opened the floor to questions from the audience.
The first question, directed to Truppe's empty chair, dealt with respecting democracy.
First question from an audience member: "I have a question for Susan Truppe" - Audience bursts out in laughter— Drishti Kataria (@DrishtAtGazette) September 22, 2015
Student Aidan Fullerton turned to Facebook to write a cheeky note to thank Truppe for her “meaningful contribution” to the debate.
“Debates of this kind are necessary to the health of our democratic process making it a perfect fit in a university setting as we make efforts to better promote youth participation in election,” said university affairs vice-president Stephen Rogers in a statement.
The Toronto Star has reported that Tory candidates, including cabinet ministers, have been advised to skip all-candidates debates and duck the media during this campaign — a strategy the party used four years ago en route to a majority victory.
Last month, another Conservative candidate also earned flak for RSVPing “no” to an Alberta debate. To show Joan Crockatt’s absence, the Calgary Herald published a photo of an empty chair.
Truppe did participate in an debate organized by Rogers TV London earlier this month.
The Huffington Post Canada reached out to Truppe for comment, but did not receive a response before publication. This post will be updated if the Conservative candidate responds.
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