05/21/2014 01:09 EDT | Updated 07/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Ontario Election 2014: Hudak Won't Take Part In Northern Debate


TORONTO - Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak won't be joining his rivals to debate northern Ontario issues on May 26, even though he did show up for the head-to-head leaders' event in the last election.

The party says the debate organizers made the decision to pick a date that "only worked for some parties, not all."

The tersely worded statement says the party had hoped there would have been an equal opportunity for all parties to talk about their plans for the region.

It says it was led to believe that there was a desire for a "comprehensive discussion."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne have said they'll participate in the debate in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Hudak and Horwath held a northern debate in the 2011 election, but then-premier Dalton McGuinty declined, citing a scheduling conflict.

Horwath on Wednesday expressed surprise that Hudak would not attend the debate.

Hudak was the first to criticize McGuinty for skipping the northern debate in the 2011 campaign, she noted.

"In the last election campaign it was the Liberals that gave a backhand to the north and this time it's the Conservatives that are giving a backhand to the north," she said while campaigning in Brampton.

"New Democrats have been there for the north from Day 1, and will proudly take part in the debate again this time around."

Wynne said she was "disappointed" Hudak wouldn't be attending.

"It's such an important part of the province. And geography dictates that it takes longer and it's harder to get to from southern Ontario, but that doesn't mean it's (not) important," she said in Cambridge.

"In fact, it's even more important that we make the effort."

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