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Local Tories skipping debates, avoiding interviews

Interview requests with the Progressive Conservative candidates in both Sudbury and Nickel Belt remain unfilled, party spokespeople offer non-answers in response to questions
170522_hazlett despatie conservative candidates
Marc Despatie (left) is the PC candidate in Sudbury, while Randy Hazlett is the party's candidate in Nickel Belt.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario candidates in both Nickel Belt and Sudbury appear to be laying low by skipping public debates and avoiding media inquiries.

“Our candidates are focused on knocking on doors and speaking with constituents directly about the issues that matter to their community,” PC candidate communications lead Christina Wramhed emailed in response to an interview request with local candidates by also phoned and stopped by Sudbury candidate Marc Despatie’s campaign headquarters earlier this week to submit an interview request in-person. We have yet to receive the call-back that was requested.

Neither Despatie nor Nickel Belt candidate Randy Hazlett has responded to a separate interview request issued last week regarding the Ontario Autism Program. The waitlist for children to receive programming has roughly doubled to more than 52,000 during Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford’s tenure, despite an earlier pledge to eliminate the waitlist.

The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce hosted two virtual debates last week, with Wednesday’s featuring Sudbury candidates and Thursday’s featuring Nickel Belt candidates.

Neither Despatie nor Hazlett attended these events. 

“PC candidates for both Sudbury and Nickel Belt riding had accepted our invite for the events earlier but have now withdrawn their participation in the events,” a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce spokesperson clarified to, later adding that they’ve heard similar things from other chambers of commerce about Progressive Conservatives at their debates.

Thursday’s debate found only Nickel Belt candidates France Gélinas (NDP) and Gilles Proulx (Liberal) show up, during which both candidates laid into Hazlett for missing the event.

“Four more years of Ford (Progressive) Conservatives is exactly what you’re seeing tonight,” Proulx said. “You’re going to be ignored.”

“They don’t want you to know what they really stand for, they don’t want you to know what to expect for the next four years, and this is wrong,” Gélinas said. sent an email to Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario communications staff last week inquiring about why the candidates skipped the debates and whether they intend to take part in the May 18 debate being organized by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. The email also sought a response to the accusation Hazlett’s team had improperly placed campaign signs on public land, as well as what the best phone number to reach local candidates might be.

A spokesperson issued the following single-sentence statement in response:

“Marc and Randy are focused on knocking on doors and speaking with constituents directly about the issues that matter to their community.”

As for Wednesday’s Canadian Association of Retired Persons debate, key organizer John Lindsay said that the local Progressive Conservative candidates haven't confirmed their attendance. Drawing experience from hosting debates such as this in the past, he clarified that they never really know which candidates will participate until the event begins.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for