OTTAWA – The opposition parties might have agreed to a national English debate broadcast by the major TV networks, but the Conservatives aren’t budging on their decision to skip it.
The NDP, Liberals and Green party reached an agreement in principle Thursday with the television consortium that has traditionally organized the election debates, for two national broadcasts with simultaneous translation.
The consortium includes CBC’s French and English channels, Global News and CTV.
The English-language broadcast will feature Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May, while the French language broadcast will also feature Bloc Quebecois Leader Mario Beaulieu. The Bloc said it was upset to not be included in the English match-up.
If the opposition parties and networks were hoping to nudge the Conservatives into changing their mind, it didn’t work. Spokesman Kory Teneycke pointed out that the party already firmly rejected the consortium’s proposal two weeks ago, and selected alternative debates.
“From our perspective the slots have been filled with respect to the English debates,” Teneycke said in an email.
“We have one left in French. Our response has not changed with respect to the Consortium proposal. It was a decision, not a public negotiation.”
But the consortium’s proposal appeared to change substantially between a meeting two weeks ago with the parties and Thursday.
The Tories had 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.
Still, it remains unclear whether the TV debates will hold together without the prime minister’s participation. And there remains the possibility the Conservatives could say yes to just the French-language consortium debate.
At this point, all of the debates are a bit fuzzy.
Here’s a recap of what’s been proposed, and who has said yes:
Consortium debates: NDP, Liberals, Greens and Bloc Quebecois agreed in principle, Conservatives firm no.
Maclean’s Magazine: Conservatives and NDP firm yes.
Munk Debates, on foreign policy: Conservatives firm yes, NDP agreed in principle.
Globe and Mail/Google Canada, on the economy: Conservatives firm yes, NDP agreed in principle.
CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons): NDP agreed in principle.
Up for Debate, on women’s issues: NDP, Green Party firm yes.
TVA Network: Conservatives firm yes, NDP agreed in principle.
The Liberals have yet to agree in principle on anything other than the two consortium debates. The party issued a press release outlining its criteria for participation, including an equal number of debates in French and English, the participation of all parties in the Commons, and the inclusion of a live studio audience with audience participation.