Leaders' debates set without May

The broadcast consortium has confirmed leaders' debates have been set for April 12 and 14 and won't include Greens leader Elizabeth May.

English debate to be held on April 12, French on April 14

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The broadcast consortium has confirmed the dates and location for the federal election leaders' debates have been set with the parties, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is still not invited.

In a statement Wednesday evening, the consortium confirmed that it and the four federal parties represented in the House of Commons have reached an agreement.

"The leaders of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois have agreed to participate in the debates as organized by the broadcasting consortium," said the networks, which are comprised of CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and TVA.

The English television debate will take place on April 12. The French debate will take place two days later on April 14. Both debates will occur in Ottawa.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May joins the group of NDP Leader Jack Layton, left, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe as they pose for a photograph prior to the English language federal election debate in October 2008. Tom Hanson/Canadian Press
The consortium's statement said it had considered the "broad scope of reaction" to its initial invitation on Tuesday and reiterated that its decision was unanimous.

"The decision was based on the application of journalistic principles, and the fact that the Green Party has never elected a member to Parliament," the statement said.

"The consortium has also considered in its decision that leaders' debates are not the only opportunities for a party to gain access to the airwaves during an election campaign."

Conservative sources told CBC News that their party was open to any format and interested in a modification of the traditional process. The sources said their representatives proposed to include an hour of debate between Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, but in the end accepted the traditional format with some one-on-one engagement at the beginning of each segment.

Debate over debate dominates campaign trail

The consortium's initial invitation to the four leaders triggered a fierce debate on the campaign trail Wednesday over whether May should be included, as well as the consortium's control over the events.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper also said he was willing to debate Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff one-on-one after Ignatieff said he would debate Harper face-to-face "any time, any place."

That prompted NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe to accuse the Liberals and Conservatives of being anti-democratic. Duceppe also said the move toward a two-leader debate was an attempt to exclude Quebec.

As for her exclusion, May said the broadcasters are trying to silence a leader who will talk about climate change, First Nations issues and foreign policy.

"There are issues that will be raised when my voice is in the debates, and there will be issues that will be shut down if my voice is shut down. And that's anti-democratic," May said in Vancouver.

"What the media is essentially saying to the Canadian public is, as journalists, we're telling you who is a serious political party and who isn't. And that is not the role of journalists."

May has hired lawyer Peter Rosenthal to help her fight her case and argue the airways are public, not owned by broadcasters.

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