Politics

Election debate dates set by broadcasters without Conservatives

Canada's largest broadcasters have announced the dates for this fall's federal election debates despite an ongoing boycott by the Conservative Party.

English-language debate to be held Oct. 8; French on Oct. 7 - same night as Montreal Canadiens season opener

Canada's largest broadcasters have announced dates for two federal election debates. The English debate between, from left, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will take place Oct. 8. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, right, will join the others in a French-language debate Oct. 7. The Conservatives have so far declined to take part. (Canadian Press photos)

Canada's largest broadcasters have announced the dates for this fall's federal election debates despite an ongoing boycott by the Conservative Party.

The group of networks known as the broadcast consortium, including CBC News, has set the English-language debate for Thursday, Oct. 8, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. ET, and the French-language debate for Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET.

Negative reactions on social media were swift, with people pointing out the English-language debate is not happening in prime time in Ontario and Quebec, and is during the afternoon — and normal business hours — in Alberta and British Columbia.

The French-language debate is set for the same time as the NHL's Montreal Canadiens season-opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which could be a factor in how many people watch that debate in real time.

The French-language debate will run an additional half-hour because it will include the Bloc Québécois, which has been excluded from the English-language debate.

Invitation still open to Conservatives

The New Democrats, the Liberals and the Green Party have confirmed their participation in the debates run by the  consortium. The Conservatives say they will participate in other debates, but not the consortium debates.

A Conservative spokesman has said the party received too many invitations and the broadcast consortium didn't make the cut. Kory Teneycke didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the consortium moving ahead without the Conservatives.

Liliane Lê, spokeswoman for the broadcasters, said there would be conflicts regardless of the dates chosen, especially in the fall when most shows are premiering. She said the dates were set by agreement between the consortium and the parties. 

"These are available online, they will be rebroadcast," she said.

"We also have to think about programming beyond primetime. ... I think we have to start thinking about other ways of reaching Canadians. We are in 2015."

The consortium of the country's largest broadcasters includes CTV News, Global News, Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec in addition to CBC News.

In a news release, the consortium said the broadcasters maintain their invitation to the Conservative Party to participate.

"Canada's major broadcasters pool their resources to ensure that the largest number of Canadians have access to leaders' debates during the height of the election campaign so they can make an informed decision about their political choices at the polls," the release said. 

"Together with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Google, YouTube, and CPAC, the networks' 2015 televised debates will reach millions of Canadians across the country and abroad, on multiple platforms, in both French and English."

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