Conservative leadership candidate Deepak Obhrai has challenged fellow contender Kevin O'Leary to a
duel one-on-one debate on Canadian democracy.
UPDATE: Feb. 17, 10:30 a.m. ET — O'Leary's campaign says he is declining Obhrai's challenge.
Obhrai issued a press release Thursday accusing the businessman of being "confused" by the nuances between U.S. and Canadian democracies.
"This is not surprising considering his past record of supporting American parties, but not Canadian ones," the release states.
Conservative leadership candidates Kevin O'Leary and Deepak Obhrai. (Photo: Getty/The Canadian Press)
A spokesman for O'Leary, who officially entered the Conservative leadership contest in January after months of speculation, told The Huffington Post Canada on Friday he will not be accepting Obhrai's challenge. Instead, O'Leary will focus on speaking to party members and selling memberships.
"Mr. O’Leary does however, look forward to working with Mr. Obhrai once Mr. O’Leary becomes Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada," said Ari Laskin in an email.
Obhrai charges in his release that O'Leary "insulted" Canada's democracy by saying he would not rush to seek a seat in the House of Commons should he win the Tory leadership. In an interview with The Globe and Mail last month, O'Leary described running for a federal seat after winning the leadership as a "waste of time."
Obhrai told The Huffington Post Canada O'Leary's refusal to immediately seek a seat goes against the norms of Canada's democracy.
"The guy keeps on making statements, just like Donald Trump keeps making statements, without thinking [of the] consequences," Obhrai said.
O'Leary bashed at first debate
The Tory leadership race has been a crowded one, with 14 candidates currently vying to replace interim leader Rona Ambrose.
O'Leary drew criticism from his opponents before he officially entered the race. At his first debate with the leadership contestants earlier this month, he was bashed for being opportunistic and having no political experience.
He was also under heavy flak for sharing a video of himself at a gun range on the day of a funeral service for three victims of the Quebec City mosque massacre.
The celebrity investor was accused of being insensitive.
"(He) had the audacity to post that video on the very same day we were burying the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in Canadian history,'' leadership candidate Michael Chong said at the debate.
"That video will cost us the next election.''
The next leadership debate takes place in Edmonton on Feb. 28. The Conservatives choose their new leader in May.
With files from The Canadian Press