Tory Leadership Contenders Debate In Winnipeg Without O'Leary, Leitch

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WINNIPEG — Many of those running to become the next leader of the federal Conservative Party have taken part in a debate in Winnipeg, but a few candidates were no-shows.

Organizers said Chris Alexander, Kellie Leitch and Erin O’Toole were absent due to scheduling conflicts, while the team of race newcomer Kevin O'Leary did not reach out to them.

steven blaney
JSteven Blaney speaks at a Conservative Party of Canada leadership forum in Winnipeg on Jan. 19, 2017. (Photo: John Woods/CP)

Candidates answered questions on topics such as military spending, carbon taxes, and reforming relationships with First Nations communities.

Steven Blaney said the Indian Act should be abolished and reserves should be dismantled because it creates different classes of Canadians.

Michael Chong said the federal government needs to spend more on First Nations education.

Andrew Saxton said more money isn't the answer, and more needs to be done to give indigenous people the opportunity to become homeowners.

O'Leary appeared on 'Good Morning America'

Nearly 200 people were in attendance at the event at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.

Party supporter Fred Westphal said he's surprised O'Leary — who appeared on the New York-based TV show "Good Morning America" on Thursday — wasn't there.

"I would've thought that this would've been the first chance to show his colours," said Westphal. "I am a little surprised he's not here."

Conservatives will choose their new leader on May 27.

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