Mulcair won’t join broadcast consortium debates unless Harper present

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks in Waterloo, Ont., on Friday, July 24, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hannah Yoon

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will not participate in the broadcast consortium debates unless Stephen Harper is also present, said a statement released Friday.

Over the past few days, Conservative sources have been quietly predicting that Mulcair will not join – this prediction now appears to have come true.

In a press release Friday afternoon, the NDP indicated that it will decide whether to participate in debates based on three criteria:

  • The host organization is credible and non-partisan
  • The proposed topics to be discussed are varied and relevant to a large number of Canadians; and
  • The Prime Minister and other political party leaders are invited and have agreed to participate.

The party also indicated that it will participate in an equal number of French and English debates.

As Harper has already indicated that he will not be participating in any debates organized by the broadcasters, this puts these debates themselves in jeopardy: Having just Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May, and at the French-language debate, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, doesn’t make for much of a discussion.

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WATCH: Conservative Party’s Kory Teneycke reacts to NDP announcement that they will only debate if Harper is there

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“This debate about the debates is the direct result of the Conservative Party’s unilateral break with traditional practice that, while not perfect, was coherent and functional,” said NDP campaign director Anne McGrath in a press release.

“The Conservative Party must explain to Canadians why they have yet to accept the Broadcast Consortium’s proposal and failed to put forward alternative solutions. The current situation has led to needless uncertainty and threatens the linguistic balance that the previous approach provided,” she said.

The Green Party is not happy with the NDP’s decision.

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The party’s director of communications Julian Morelli said that this was a collaborative effort between Mulcair and Harper to ensure Elizabeth May doesn’t get to debate in front of a wide audience.

READ MORE: Federal Green party ‘stunned’ over snubs from two high-profile election debates

“They shouldn’t be playing games,” he said. “You’ve got a national broadcaster forum that’s going to hit 14 million to 18 million people. To suggest that [Mulcair]’s not going to debate with the prime minister not there, who does he think he is?”

Morelli added this decision is “killing democracy.”

Global News has also reached out to the Liberal Party for comment.

The French-language broadcast consortium debate was scheduled for Oct. 7 and the English on Oct. 8.

All leaders will be participating in a debate organized by Maclean’s magazine on Thursday, Aug. 6, and other debates are organized later in the campaign.

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