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Alberta Tory leadership candidates willing to debate live on TV

EDMONTON - Two of three Alberta Tory leadership hopefuls expressed a wish Monday to appear in a televised debate and their fellow candidate said he'd be open to taking part.

Former provincial cabinet ministers Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk appeared together at the legislature, where they released a joint letter to the PC party executive. The letter says Albertans should have every possible chance to hear from the candidates. It asks the PC party to work with media outlets to put together a TV tete-a-tete.

During a stop in Lethbridge later in the day, Jim Prentice, said he'd be willing to take part as long as his schedule permitted.

"I think I've been in, at last count, seven debates with the other candidates over the course of the campaign," Prentice said. "We were in a three-hour debate last week.

"I love debates. I was in national politics for 10 years and I'm happy to debate."

But in a statement, party president Jim McCormick was cool to a TV debate organized by the Tories.

“The three candidates have been in the same room in front of our members and the general public plenty of times this campaign, with at least three other events planned in the near future where that will be the case," McCormick said.

"One of those is a live debate on Aug. 21 that will be hosted by our youth organization ... and will be live-streamed on YouTube.”

McIver and Lukaszuk suggested not all Albertans are Internet savvy and there's a lot at stake in the leadership vote.

"This is not simply a race to be leader," reads the letter. "Whoever wins the race in September will be the premier of Alberta — the economic powerhouse of Canada — and Albertans deserve to know ... the values, policies and vision of their next leader."

The letter is on joint stationery and includes both men's signatures. A blank space was left should Prentice choose to sign, they said.

They added there is interest from the media, including two television networks. Lukaszuk pointed out that the last three leadership races have had at least one TV debate.

Prentice spokesman Bill Anderson said Prentice is the only candidate "with a clear and comprehensive policy platform that has been in place from the day he launched his campaign."

"There is little to debate until all candidates have stated their vision and policy positions. The redundant calls for debate by some candidates amount to nothing more than a desperate attempt to draw attention to their campaigns," Anderson wrote in an email.

Card-carrying members of the PC party vote for a new leader next month.

— with files from CHQR, CHED and CJOC.

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