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Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty heads to northern Ontario Thursday while the other two leaders focus on the Greater Toronto Area. ((The Canadian Press))

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty will not participate in a northern Ontario debate, saying he would instead like to talk about northern issues in the only debate that the leaders of all three major parties will participate in. 

Speaking in Thunder Bay Thursday morning after touring the Bombardier plant, McGuinty said the Sept. 23 debate organized by the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association does not work for the Liberals.

"We never received an alternate date," he said.

He said he would rather speak about issues specific to the north at the sole televised debate involving leaders of all three major parties scheduled for Sept. 27.

Having a debate focused on the issues for a particular region, he said, would allow leaders to use a regionally-tailored message that they would never use in another part of the province.

"In order to eliminate those kinds of opportunities, I think we should all be there together talking about the province together, including an important focus on northern issues," he said.

Tories offer to pay

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak agreed on Wednesday to join the northern debate — and offered Thursday morning to cover the costs for McGuinty to appear at the debate via teleconference.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was the first to accept the invitation from the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association.

Horwath appeared at Ryerson University in Toronto on Thursday, where she announced a pledge to freeze tuition fees for post-secondary students four four years and eliminate interest on the provincial portion of student loans.

From there she will swing up to Brampton in support of candidate Jagmeet Singh in his race to unseat Liberal Kuldip Kular, who was first elected in 2003.

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