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Trudeau says no to Garneau offer of 1-on-1 debate

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Justin Trudeau doesn't intend to take up Marc Garneau's challenge to meet him for a one-on-one debate in the federal Liberal leadership debate.

Federal Liberal Party leadership candidate Garneau dropped the gauntlet at a press conference in Ottawa Monday morning, saying that Trudeau, his fellow candidate and thought to be the front-runner, should have the "courage of his convictions" to debate with him directly.

The Liberal Party has not scheduled any one-on-one debates in the run-up to the final deadline for leadership voting on April 14. Garneau said he has only had three minutes so far to debate one-on-one with Trudeau, although he refused to blame the Liberal Party for the way it has structured the three debates that have been held.

Garneau told reporters at a press conference that Trudeau was "untested" and was hiding behind a "carefully crafted public relations campaign."

"It is time for Justin to step up and defend his ideas, because if he can't defend them to me in front of a room full of Liberals, he will never be able to do it against Stephen Harper," Garneau said.

Minutes after Garneau finished speaking, Trudeau tweeted: "I respect all the candidates for #LPCLdr. See you in Halifax, Marc. I hear there are 1 on 1s. ;-)".

Speaks for itself

Asked if Trudeau was rejecting the idea of a special debate just with Garneau, his campaign office spokeswoman Kate Monfette said in an email, "I think the tweet speaks for itself. He will be happy to debate with Mr. Garneau in Halifax on Sunday, as planned."

The one-on-one debate, if it were to happen, would have to take place outside the auspices of the Liberal Party, Garneau acknowledged. He said he envisions a one-hour debate, moderated by a journalist. Garneau said he would clear his schedule so he could meet Trudeau for the proposed debate.

Asked about how the other seven leadership candidates would feel about being excluded from such a debate, Garneau said it is up to them to make their own arrangements. He added that "polls" tell him that he and Trudeau are the two front runners in the race.

Garneau made a reference to the recent American presidential debates in which voters were able to see Mitt Romney and Barack Obama defend their ideas in lengthy two-person exchanges. He said that the Liberal Party leadership debates provide "limited opportunity" for the nine candidates to offer a full picture of their contrasting views.

The next scheduled Liberal leadership debate takes place in Halifax on March 3, to be followed by a final debate on March 23.