Conservative candidate Lorne Mayencourt too late for arts debate

Conservative Vancouver Centre candidate Lorne Mayencourt unexpectedly showed up late to last night's all-candidates debate on the arts, and was told he couldn’t come up on-stage.

But the other details of what transpired last night at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage vary depending on who’s recalling the incident at the all-party forum organized by the Alliance for Arts and Culture.

"When he showed up, one of the people from the arts alliance turned him away, and suggested that he had not been invited," Mayencourt’s spokesperson Gary Mitchell told the Straight.

According to Mitchell, who said that he was citing the version of events related to him by Mayencourt, the Conservative candidate arrived at the theatre at 8:05 p.m. to "see if he could participate a little bit" in the forum, which was scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Mitchell said that it’s not unusual in short campaigns like this current federal election for candidates to show up late for an event after coming from a previous engagement.

"This happens all the time," he said. "So he’s certainly trying to do his fair share for democracy."

Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, spoke with Mayencourt in the theatre’s lobby, after he was called by front-desk staff when the Conservative candidate arrived. Wilhelm-Boyles recalled that when he was summoned out front, it was about 8:15 or 8:20 p.m., and the candidates had already started delivering their concluding remarks.

"I don’t know what he said to anybody before I got there but when I got there, I simply explained to him that he declined to attend," Wilhelm-Boyles said, referring to the initial invitation to the candidate.

He added that Mayencourt’s team informed the alliance on September 26 that the Conservative candidate would be available for the debate, but on September 29 announced that the candidate couldn’t make it. At that point, organizers booked another Conservative candidate, John Cummins, MP for Delta–Richmond East.

Boyles also related: "What he said to me was...that his staff told him that he up at anytime. And I said, ”˜No, that’s not the deal with the staff. The staff told us that you were not available and we went ahead and filled the spot’."

Then, "he [Mayencourt] said, ”˜Thank you very much,’ shook hands with me, and suddenly left the building", Wilhelm-Boyles added.

But Conservative spokesperson Mitchell also claimed that Mayencourt was "denied entry into the Wrecking Ball"—the performance that followed the debate proper.

However, Wilhelm-Boyles explained that there must have been a "misapprehension".

"What I was told when I came to speak with Mr. Mayencourt was that he wanted to be on-stage as part of the debate and obviously at that point, when there’s already a Conservative candidate there, and they were basically wrapping up, that’s what I was dealing with," Wilhelm-Boyles said. "He could have stayed in the building. As far as I know nobody had asked him to leave the building. What I was saying to him was, ”˜You can’t join the debate now.’"