A dozen Conservative leadership contestants will face off Wednesday night in Saskatoon, giving Canadians a look at where they stand on issues ranging from the economy to immigration.

And with so many candidates, each faces a major challenge for a politician: how to cram his or her plan for Canada into approximately 40 seconds per topic.

The party wants to keep the debate to a reasonable two hours, but has two questions each on the economy, the environment, trade and immigration, as well as four on topics suggested by party members.

That works out to about 40 seconds per person per question, plus a 30-second intro to kick off the night.

There's no time for closing remarks, but at least one of the member-suggested questions should allow each candidate to broadly make the case for themselves, a party official said.

The debate will also serve as a chance for the lower-profile candidates to introduce themselves to Canadians.

But it could be a challenge to stand out from the 11 other contestants arrayed on stage in a long row, facing the audience. Some are former cabinet ministers and held critic portfolios as members of the Official Opposition, while others have been less prominent.

Candidates have a good incentive to appear at the debate: anyone who misses it will lose $10,000 from their deposit.

The candidates who will be at the debate are:

  • Saskatoon-University MP Brad Trost
  • Regina-Qu'Appelle MP Andrew Scheer
  • Former North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton
  • Milton MP Lisa Raitt
  • Durham MP Erin O'Toole
  • Calgary Forest Lawn MP Deepak Obhrai
  • Winnipeg doctor Dan Lindsay
  • Simcoe-Grey MP Kellie Leitch
  • Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong
  • Bellechasse-Les Etchemins-Lévis MP Steven Blaney
  • Beauce MP Maxime Bernier
  • Former Ajax-Pickering MP Chris Alexander

As with any major debate, the party held a draw to determine the contestants’ location on the stage and their speaking order, as well as where the leadership hopefuls' teams will set up. They even had a draw to determine where they could set up their swag tables for prospective supporters to pick up some branded gear.

Half the room’s seating has been allocated to the leadership candidates who had registered as of when the tickets went on sale, but anyone in the audience will be limited in the kind of support they can show: posters and noisemakers are strictly banned from the debate room.

Leadership hopefuls have until Feb. 24 to file their paperwork and pay their fees. To appear in the debate, the candidates have to have paid their non-refundable $25,000 deposit and had their paperwork approved by the party. Another $25,000 payment is due before they can have access to party membership lists, which will allow them to focus their campaign efforts, and each contestant has to pay a refundable $50,000 compliance fee by the end of the year.

The debate will be moderated by Kaveri Braid, a former advisor to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and former journalist.

This is the sole English-only debate the Conservatives are holding ahead of the May 27, 2017 vote. The next debate, to be held in Moncton, will be done in French and English. The party is also planning a French-only debate and two other bilingual debates in the new year.