August 27, 2015 2:32 pm

Elizabeth May pleads with party leaders to participate in televised debates

Canada's Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair and Conservative leader Stephen Harper confer before a leaders' debate in Toronto, August 6, 2015.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL-Mark Blinch
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In a plea to the three main party leaders, Green leader Elizabeth May said that skipping the traditional televised leaders’ debate threatens the country’s democracy.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper and NDP leader Tom Mulcair have said they won’t take part in the English debate, a decision May says is “a serious concern about a critical issue for the health of our democracy and citizen engagement.”

In-depth: Federal Election 2015

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The debates are historically organized by CBC, CTV and Global, and in 2011 reached an estimated 10 million people.

“As things now stand, this vital opportunity to engage and inform voters may not happen at all,” May wrote in letters to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Mulcair and Harper, dated Aug. 25.

Mulcair said he based his decision on Harper’s, but has asked the Conservative leader to reconsider his decision to not participate.

So long as Harper stays solid in his stance, however, Mulcair won’t be there; since it is Harper he wants to unseat, it’s Harper he wants to debate —not the other opposition leaders, he has said.

“Unless [Mr. Harper] or Mr. Mulcair (or ideally both) change [their] current boycott positions, we may have the absurd outcome that only French viewers will see a national debate that reaches all parts of Canada,” May wrote in her letters.

The Green leader asked Trudeau to confirm his attendance at the televised debate, scheduled for Oct. 7, just 12 days before election day.

“Please, while there is time to stand up for fair, full and democratic election practices, please re-commit to the national televised leaders’ debate … It is unconscionable that political parties, operating with no rules, would undermine and ultimately derail such an important tradition.”

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