Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau confirm participation in Munk Debates, 2nd French debate

The Conservative, NDP and Liberal leaders confirmed late Tuesday that they would attend the Munk Debates foreign policy-focused bilingual discussion, while a group of Canadian broadcasters announced an agreement had been reached for a second French-language debate.

News of 2nd French-language bout follows day of confusion over Munk Debates

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he would take part in the Munk Debates if it had a bilingual format. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The Conservative, NDP and Liberal leaders confirmed late Tuesday that they would attend the Munk Debates foreign policy-focused bilingual discussion, while a group of Canadian broadcasters announced an agreement had been reached for a second French-language debate.

The French-language debate, slated for Sept. 24 at Radio-Canada's studios in Montreal, will include the Conservative, NDP, Liberal, Green and Bloc Québécois leaders. The debate will be hosted by a group of broadcasters — including CBC, CTV and Global — identical to a consortium that had previously proposed both an English and French-language debate, though those proposals had been roundly rejected by the Conservatives.

The Conservatives' decision to participate seems to be a response to an altered format, though how the new format would differ from the earlier proposals was not immediately clear.

News of the second French-language debate was preceded by a day of confusion over which leaders would be attending the Munk Debates foreign policy discourse scheduled for Sept. 28. 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Tuesday afternoon that he agreed to a revised invitation from the Munk Debates proposing a bilingual debate, while a spokeswoman for Justin Trudeau announced soon after that the Liberal leader would also participate — with a request that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May be included.

Rudyard Griffiths, the debate organizer, reiterated on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Tuesday night that his organization decided to invite only the leaders of parties officially recognized in the House of Commons. A party must have 12 seats in the House to be recognized.

May has asked to be included.

Finally, in a statement released late Tuesday night, spokesman Kory Teneycke said that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper had accepted the bilingual format of the Munk Debates.

Confusion didn't end with NDP declaration

The NDP had set Monday as the deadline to announce which debates Mulcair would take part in. That deadline passed as the party continued to negotiate with a number of debate organizers, including the Globe and Mail, which is slated to host a debate in Calgary on Sept. 17.

NDP senior campaign advisor Brad Lavigne, however, tweeted late Tuesday that Mulcair would be attending the Globe debate.

Mulcair had earlier insisted that there be an equal number of English and French-language bouts. The decision to take part in the second French-language bout, the Munk Debates discussion and the Globe debate means that Mulcair will participate in two English, two French and one bilingual debate. 

But the earlier confusion didn't end with the NDP. While a senior adviser to Trudeau had confirmed on Twitter that Trudeau would be at the Munk Debates, he later corrected that, saying he had thought the question was about a debate focused on women's issues known as 'Up for Debate'.

Several Liberals had said as recently as Tuesday morning that the talks with the Munk Debates organizers were continuing.

Who's doing which debates?

  • Sept. 17: Debate in Calgary on the economy, organized by the Globe and Mail and Google Canada: Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair confirmed. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May not invited.

  • Sept. 24: French debate organized by group of broadcasters: Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and May confirmed.

  • Sept. 28: Debate in Toronto on foreign policy, hosted by the Munk Debates: Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair confirmed. May not invited.

  • Oct. 2: Debate on Quebec's TVA network (in French) moderated by Pierre Bruneau: Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau and Duceppe confirmed.

  • Oct. 8: English debate organized by the consortium of broadcasters: Trudeau and May expected. Harper has declined. Mulcair unconfirmed. Duceppe not invited.

Green Party snubbed

So far there has only been one debate, in English, which was hosted last week by Maclean's magazine.

The NDP has agreed to a corresponding French debate to be hosted by Quebec-based broadcaster TVA, which will also include the Conservatives and the Liberals.

The Liberals have also agreed to a proposed debate dedicated to women's issues. The Bloc and Greens have also signed on to 'Up for Debate,' the debate on women's issues.

The Green Party was not invited to the Globe or the Munk debates.


  • A previous version of this story indicated the likely date for the Munk Debates would be Oct. 5. The expected date is actually Sept. 28.
    Aug 11, 2015 12:11 PM ET

With files from Cameron MacIntosh and John Paul Tasker