Liberals rethinking Munk Debate

Co-chairs of Trudeau's campaign team say they are reviewing whether to take part in Sept. 28 debate

    EDMONTON — The federal Liberals are threatening to pull out of a leaders debate on foreign policy later this month over concerns that it won’t be bilingual as promised.

    The debate on foreign policy comes as the campaign has focused on the Syrian refugee issue in Europe, a matter Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau talked about during an event in Toronto Wednesday morning, and then again hours later in a campaign rally speech to supporters in Edmonton.

    In a letter sent to the organizers of the Munk Debate on Wednesday, the co-chairs of Trudeau’s campaign team said they were reviewing whether to take part in the debate on Sept. 28.

    The letter says that organizers promised the debate would be bilingual as a condition of Liberal involvement.

    When Liberal officials looked over the format for the debate, they felt there wasn’t enough time allocated to debate issues in French. One campaign official said it looked like 15 to 20 per cent of the debate would be in French and the debate moderator was a uniligual anglophone.

    “We agreed in principle, under the presumption that this was a bilingual debate; however, this is clearly not a bilingual debate,” the letter says.

    Liberal officials also say they were concerned with the $95 per ticket price tag to get into the debate audience, as well as preferential treatment for Munk members, leading to what the letter described as an “exclusive list of Canadians” who would be able to attend.

    “We cannot accept that,” reads the letter, signed by campaign co-chairs Katie Telford and Dan Gagnier.

    “The days of political leaders auditioning in front of the country’s wealthiest elite are behind us. Debates should be open to all Canadians, regardless of where they live or with whom they associate.”

    Telford and Gagnier wrote that Trudeau would only take part in the debate if organizers met their concerns “in a material way.”