Kevin O'Leary accused of avoiding French leadership debate

Andrew Scheer calls on Kevin O'Leary to make a decision before the French-language 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 Tuesday urging the Montreal-born businessman to formalize his candidacy and participate in the Quebec City event Jan.17.

“If Kevin wants to run, it’s time to fish or cut bait,” Scheer said. “It is not acceptable to stall or delay in order to avoid the French-language debate.”

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

Some Conservatives 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 celebrity businessman and reality TV host announced before Christmas he has a group of advisers exploring a possible leadership run and is seeking public input through a website.

Kevin O'Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, in Ottawa February 26, 2016. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

Kevin O’Leary in Ottawa on February 26, 2016. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

O’Leary didn’t respond directly to Scheer’s challenge but used his Twitter account to thank “Andrew” for his “support” and invite him to vote.

The exploratory committee is due to report back to O’Leary early this year.

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

There are now 13 candidates in the running for the job with the withdrawal of Daniel Lindsay, a Manitoba radiologist with no political experience.

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