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Federal election 2015: Conservatives shake up debates with pre-campaign plan

05/12/2015 10:41 EDT | Updated 05/12/2016 05:59 EDT
Canadians may get to see federal party leaders face off in as many as five debates before they head to the polls next fall. 

The Conservative Party has officially rebuffed the proposal by the media consortium that traditionally organizes leaders' debates in favour of competing offers from individual networks.

In a statement released Tuesday, former Sun Media executive-turned-Tory spokesman Kory Teneycke said his party is "pleased" to accept proposals by TVA and Maclean's/Rogers to host two separate debates, in French and English, respectively, sometime between now and the fixed election date of Oct. 19.

The move effectively ends the monopoly previously enjoyed by the election broadcast consortium.

The ad hoc committee, which is made up of the major broadcasters, including CBC, CTV, Global and, until relatively recently, TVA, traditionally takes charge of negotiating with participating political parties over the timing, format and staging of the debates. 

The programs are then aired live by all participating networks across the country.

Consortium 'effectively excluded' other media: Tories

"We believe the diversity and innovation inherent in different debate sponsors and approaches is valuable," Teneycke said.

That's why his party decided to reject the consortium proposal to host four debates, he said  — an offer that would "effectively exclude other media and organizations capable of hosting debates of this nature."

He said the "increased certainty associated with the timeframe preceding a fixed election date" has made it possible to hold more debates.

"We believe this serves the public interest, and we are therefore prepared to participate in up to one more French debate and up to two more English debates," or up to five debates total — something Teneycke says would be "a record in modern Canadian political history."

The party is actively soliciting invitations from other media organizations, including CBC/Radio Canada.

"We look forward to reviewing those proposals in a timely manner and will communicate further once that review is complete."

Neither the New Democrats nor the Liberals offered an immediate comment on the move, although NDP sources indicated the leader has yet to decline an invitation.

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