The bilingual event, with the first half taking part in English, began at 6 p.m. ET.
Three candidates are fielding questions in a roundtable format over approximately an hour and a half: Jean Charest, the former Quebec premier and one-time leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives; Conservative MP Scott Aitchison; and former Ontario MPP Roman Baber.
The topics include Indigenous issues, climate change, affordability, transportation and health.
The debate, which is taking place without a studio audience, comes just over one month from when the party will select its third permanent leader in five years on Sept. 10.
The party confirmed Wednesday it has already received roughly 150,000 ballots from a voter list with more than 670,000 names. The number of party members is more than double the size it was when Erin O’Toole was chosen to lead the Conservatives in 2020.
Poilievre, Lewis sitting debate out
MPs Pierre Poilievre and Leslyn Lewis are hosting meet-and-greets with supporters at the same time as Wednesday’s debate in Regina, Sask., and Cornwall, P.E.I., respectively.
Poilievre’s team previously signaled he would not take part in the debate because they felt the first debate back in May was “an embarrassment” and he wants instead to shore up voter support.
Lewis said she had received no information about the debate format and that she had told the party she would not be available on the date set for the event.
“Their decision is up to them,” Aitchison said before entering the debate venue.
“The members of the party deserve to be treated with respect. It’s that simple,” Charest said moments later.
Under party rules, candidates must attend official party debates or face a $50,000 fine.
The party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee said it decided to hold a third debate after finding that a majority of surveyed members supported the move.