August 24, 2015 4:22 pm

Mulcair, Harper not attending debate on women’s issues

Neither Tom Mulcair nor Stephen Harper are expected to attend a debate on women's issues in September.

Sean Kilpatrick, Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press
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Neither NDP leader Tom Mulcair nor Conservative leader Stephen Harper are planning to sit down and debate women’s issues prior to the Oct. 19 election, according to a group trying to organize the single-issue debate.

So far Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe have agreed to take part in the debate, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 21.

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But Harper, who never accepted the invitation for the debate, and Mulcair, who agreed to the debate before deciding he’ll only take part in debates where Harper is present, at this point in time, won’t be there.

“Obviously that’s very disappointing to us, we are over half the electorate, there are issues about gender equality and women’s rights that just aren’t being discussed,” Jackie Hansen, a women’s rights campaign with Amnesty International Canada and a spokesperson for Up for Debate said.

“We strongly feel that a standalone debate is needed to see that these issues are thoroughly discussed.”

There is precedent for a debate focused solely on women’s issues. It happened in 1984 and featured Brian Mulroney, Ed Broadbent, and John Turner.

“Unfortunately it hasn’t happened since,” Hansen said.

READ MORE: Toronto falls behind national average for female federal candidates

That 1984 debate touched on a number of issues including pay inequality, and day care – which are still focused on by women’s rights activists today.

“We’re not seeing a whole ton of movement, which is why we actually more than ever need to have this discussion,” Hansen said.

As of right now, Mulcair won’t be participating in the debate but NDP candidate Megan Leslie said in a statement Monday that he “has been clear about his commitment to ensure that women’s issues are at the forefront.”

“Since the other leaders refused for months to agree to a debate, Tom Mulcair has been working with the “Up for Debate” coalition to find other ways to highlight women’s issues through the campaign,” she said in a statement.

When it comes to women’s issues, Mulcair has touted his childcare plan as a boon for women wanting to enter the workforce.

But Hansen said Mulcair failed to make that clear during the first leaders debate in August.

“We want to make sure that all parties have their gender goggles on all the time,” she said.

The Conservative Party of Canada said in a statement to Global News Monday that “we are doing more debates than ever.”

The Conservatives have rejected traditional TV debates thus far through the 2015 election campaign, agreeing to participate in up to five debates from individual media corporations.

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