NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he has not yet agreed to participate in two high-profile English language leaders' debates, despite promises from the organizers the NDP leader would be there.
Both The Globe and Mail and the Munk Debates have said Mulcair will be part of their leaders' debates, on the economy and foreign policy, respectively. But Mulcair told a Radio-Canada radio morning show Wednesday he had only committed to two debates, and neither were to be hosted by Munk or the Globe.
"For now, I will attend [the debate organized by] Maclean's tomorrow," he said in French. "I have confirmed that I will participate in the TVA debate."
That Maclean's debate takes place Thursday in Toronto, and leaders from all parties have spent weeks preparing. The TVA debate is Oct. 2 in Montreal.
Mulcair has also put conditions on his potential participation in debates in both languages organized by a consortium of Canadian broadcasters: No Harper, no Mulcair.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has already said he will not participate in those consortium debates.
"I hope Stephen Harper will change his mind and accept the consortium debates," Mulcair said. "And if not, at every step I will require that if we add a debate in English, one has to be confirmed in French, as well."
The Conservative campaign said Wednesday the party has accepted four debates, "the most in Canadian history."
"We have not received a second French language proposal, however are open to considering a proposal once we receive it," a party spokesperson said.
NDP sets conditions
But the Globe and Munk engagements were being promoted as centrepiece debates. On Tuesday a Globe headline advertised Mulcair's participation: "Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau confirm Globe debate attendance," it read.
Mulcair's spokesman George Smith said the NDP leader has not pulled out. Rather, the party had only ever agreed in principle to participate.
"He did not back out of any debates," Smith wrote. "The NDP has agreed in principle to many of the proposals it has received.
"The Party will announce the final list of debates in which Mr. Mulcair will participate on Aug. 10."
Smith referred to an earlier NDP call for debate proposals from all interested parties to be delivered to the party by the end of this week.
In a press release last week, the party said it had received dozens of invitations.
"The NDP has agreed in principle to many of the proposals it has received, including those submitted by the Broadcast Consortium, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, 'Up for Debate' alliance, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Aboriginal People's Television Network," the party said.
The party laid out four conditions:
- The host be credible and non-partisan.
- The topics be varied and relevant.
- All party leaders participate.
- And, that there be an equal number of French and English language debates.
It's not clear how or whether the Globe or Munk debates offend these principles, but Green Party leader Elizabeth May has not been invited to either.
The debate about debates began after the Conservative Party announced its leader Stephen Harper would participate in five debates, and laid out which ones those would be. Not among them were the traditional debates organized in both languages by the broadcast consortium.
Harper agreed to the Maclean's and TVA debates, as well as those proposed by the Globe and Munk.
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