Federal opposition parties agree to two TV debates without Tories
Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe exchange handshakes as they arrive to the English language federal election debate in Ottawa Ont., on Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, May 21, 2015 5:57PM EDT
OTTAWA -- The game of election debate chicken continues, this time with the opposition parties agreeing to a pair of debates on the major TV networks and the Conservatives snubbing the talks.
The Liberals, NDP, Green party and Bloc Quebecois have reached an agreement in principle with the television consortium that has traditionally organized the election debates for a national broadcast with simultaneous translation.
The consortium includes CBC's French and English channels, Global News and CTV.
The Conservatives were not at a meeting Thursday with the broadcasters. They have agreed -- with the NDP -- to four other alternative debates with new hosts such as Maclean's magazine and the Munk Debates.
The Tories also emphasized the need for the debates to be available on different broadcasting platforms. The consortium responded to that by announcing a partnership with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and YouTube.
Under the TV network agreement, Bloc Quebecois Leader Mario Beaulieu would participate in a French-language debate only.
"The broadcasters are optimistic that this new proposal will be accepted by the Conservative party," the consortium said in a statement Thursday.
"While disagreeing with its exclusion from the English debate, the Bloc Quebecois has agreed in principle to participate in the French-language debate."
The Liberals in particular have insisted on pursuing a debate with the consortium, pointing to the wide audience it garners -- a total of 14 million viewers in 2011. The broadcast appears on all four channels simultaneously.
"We believe that a debate hosted by the country's four, national networks is the best way to have as many Canadians as possible engage in the debate process," the party said in a statement.
The struggle over the election debates has been mainly a tug of war between the Conservatives and the Liberals.
The Conservatives kept announcing their participation in new debates, while the Liberals dug in their heels on match-ups organized by the major broadcasters.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has yet to say whether he will engage in the four debates which Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair have agreed to. Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke was not immediately available to comment on whether the party would consider the major TV networks debate.
The Conservatives and the NDP have agreed to take part in a special electoral edition of the Munk Debates, focused on foreign policy. The Munk Debates, usually held twice a year, have become an international debating forum, attracting high-profile participants such as Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger and Christopher Hitchens.