Conservatives reject latest debate pitch from broadcasters
'If the opposition leaders want to debate the prime minister, they know where he is,' spokesman says
The Conservatives have rebuffed the latest offer from Canada's major broadcasters to host two nationally televised leaders' debates at the height of the federal election campaign.
The Broadcast Consortium — which is made up of CBC, Radio Canada, CTV and Shaw/Global — announced Thursday it had reached an agreement in principle with all the major federal political parties except the Conservatives to host two debates — one in English, one in French.
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The New Democrats, Liberals, Green Party and Bloc Québécois have all agreed to the proposal, which promises "unprecedented digital reach" through partnerships with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Youtube.
The broadcasters initially said they were "optimistic" that the Conservatives would accept as well.
But in an interview with Evan Solomon on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke said the party has no intention of returning to the negotiating table after very publicly pulling out of discussions last week in favour of two rival bids by Quebec-based TVA and Maclean's/Rogers.
"We already made our decision on that," he said.
"Our position hasn't changed ... we looked at the consortium proposal at that time, and denied it, and that stands."
Teneycke said that there were more debate proposals than could possibly be done.
"We're going to pick the five that we think are going to be the best five, and the consortium didn't make the cut, unfortunately for them," he said.
"The prime minister is the prime minister, he's leading in the polls right now, and if the opposition leaders want to debate the prime minister, they know where he is," he said.
"If they don't, because they're scared, then they won't."
The Conservatives have accepted invitations for two additional English-language debates: one focusing on economic issues hosted by The Globe and Mail and Google and streamed online; and a debate on Canadian foreign policy to be held under the Munk Debates banner. The NDP has signalled willingness to attend these debates as well, but the Liberals have not made their intentions known. The Greens and the Bloc were not invited to these two debates.
The Conservatives are expected to announce one additional French-language debate in the next few days.
With files from Mark Gollom