09/14/2015 04:13 EDT | Updated 09/14/2016 05:12 EDT

Federal Leaders Haven't Confirmed Attendance At Munk Debates Over Language Rules

The leaders say they agreed to the Munk Debate on the understanding it would be bilingual.

TORONTO-- The Liberal and NDP leaders are reviewing a final Munk Debate proposal before they formally accept the foreign affairs debate, but the language rules may prove to be a sticking point.

Both Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair have made their participation in all of the national election debates conditional on having an equal number in French and English.

There will be two debates in each language, so the leaders say they agreed to the Munk Debate on the understanding it would be bilingual.

But the Munk Debates never committed to hosting a bilingual debate, said moderator and chair of the Munk Debates, Rudyard Griffiths. The NDP accepted the invitation to participate in an English-only debate then later asked that it be bilingual, he said.

"We responded to their request and pledged that the debate would have bilingual components,'' Griffiths said in an interview. "At no point in any written or public communication did we agree to host a bilingual debate.''

Then the Liberals also expressed concern about the level of French content, Griffiths said. The final proposal for the Sept. 28 debate at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall is to allow each participant to speak in either language with simultaneous translation.

"We're not the Official Languages Commission,'' Griffiths said. "We're the Munk Debates. But our feeling is that a debate structured in that way, similar to how French and English are used in the House of Commons, should legitimately satisfy the parties' request for a bilingual debate.''

But it's not yet clear if that will meet Mulcair and Trudeau's conditions. The leaders have until noon Tuesday to officially accept the debate invitation.

The Conservatives said Stephen Harper will participate.

"We confirmed the debate first and are happy to debate our policy regardless of the language,'' said Kory Teneycke, principal adviser to the Conservative campaign.

Trudeau said Monday morning in Toronto before the final proposal was sent to the leaders that he hoped it would be 50-50 English and French.

"The discussion over debates in this country has been an entertaining one to watch but also a very frustrating one for Canadians and for everyone involved,'' he said.

"The only condition we put out on debates is that, Canada being an officially bilingual country, we feel there should be as many debates in French as in English.''

The Liberals did not respond to a request for comment as to whether the final proposal satisfies Trudeau's condition.

Mulcair is reviewing the new proposal, the NDP said Monday.

The party pointed to a statement the leader made last month when Mulcair said he agreed to take part in the ``fully, equally bilingual debate.''

The Munk Debate will be broadcast in French and English via CPAC and online.

There will be six major segments, beginning with a question from the moderator to one of the leaders. That leader will have up to ninety seconds to answer, followed by a one-on-one debate with another leader for about seven minutes. The third leader-- if all three agree to participate _ will join the debate for about five minutes.

The five main party leaders will take part in a French-language debate Sept. 24 at the Radio-Canada studios in Montreal.

Harper, for his part, has rejected the traditional debates run by a consortium of the major broadcasters. He has also agreed to a Sept. 17 Calgary debate sponsored by the Globe and Mail and Google Canada and a French-language debate on Quebec's TVA network on Oct. 2.

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