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Conservative Party leadership race suspended, committee cites COVID-19 pandemic

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The Conservative Party has officially suspended its leadership race in the face of the ongoing crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The party’s leadership election organizing committee made the decision in a meeting Thursday night, following days of pressure to adjust the campaign schedule.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Conservatives tweak leadership race approach but keep deadlines amid outbreak

With all non-essential businesses closed in Ontario and Quebec — including their headquarters — the committee said it “now finds that it is no longer possible to meet the deadlines necessary to process memberships and donations, or print, process and count ballots in time for a June 27 announcement.”

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The committee says it will continue to “monitor developments and meet regularly to discuss options.”

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It has set May 1 as a date for a “fulsome re-evaluation of the dates and time needed to complete the race under the obligations of the constitution.”

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Debates scheduled for April 17 and April 23 are now cancelled, along with the leadership event on June 27. The committee says it will decide on new dates after May 1.

The membership deadline will also be moved to May 15, the committee said in a series of tweets Thursday night.

“The committee thanks everyone for their patience during this time, as a decision such as this requires many considerations,” the committee said.

READ MORE: Conservative leadership race enters its next phase amid Canada’s coronavirus pandemic

Earlier the same day, one candidate — former cabinet minister and longtime MP Peter MacKay — had been urging the party to not delay the leadership vote.

“This is not a time to show weakness and push the pause button on our democratic process. The leadership race must continue,” he had tweeted.

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Several candidates had recently called for the leadership race to be delayed, as the coronavirus pandemic spread in Canada.

Marilyn Gladu, Rudy Husny and Rick Peterson had previously called on the party multiple times to extend the deadlines or postpone the contest, saying it was inappropriate for them to be campaigning at a time of crisis.

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— With files by The Canadian Press