01/03/2017 07:18 EST | Updated 01/04/2018 00:12 EST

Tory leadership: Scheer calls on O'Leary to join race before French debate

OTTAWA — Conservative leadership hopeful Andrew Scheer is accusing possible candidate Kevin O'Leary of trying to avoid an all-French debate in two weeks.

Scheer released a statement today urging the Montreal-born businessman to formalize his candidacy and participate in the Quebec City event Jan.17.

He says it's obvious O'Leary wants to get into the race and that he has an obligation to all French-speaking Conservatives to take part in the French debate.

Some people in the Conservative party believe it is essential that Stephen Harper's replacement has the ability to speak French.

O'Leary doesn't speak the language and has stated he doesn't need to in order to communicate with Quebecers.

The deadline to register for the leadership race is Feb. 24, with the winner chosen May 27.

There are currently 13 candidates in the running.