01/17/2017 14:08 EST | Updated 01/18/2018 00:12 EST

French-language Conservative leadership debate underway in Quebec City

QUEBEC — The French-language Conservative leadership debate is underway in Quebec City with all 13 hopefuls trying to cement their credentials ahead of the vote in May.

Each of the 13 read a 30-second opening statement with varying degrees of proficiency in French.

Francophone MPs Maxime Bernier and Steven Blaney were the most fluent in their deliveries, while some of the other candidates struggled in their heavily accented French.

The debate began amid rumours celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary will finally launch his campaign Wednesday afternoon in Toronto.

O'Leary, who does not speak French but is taking lessons, says he's "getting frustrated" with how many candidates are still in the running.

He says the crowded field has reduced the debates to "just a bunch of sound bites."