Tom Mulcair says a debate without Stephen Harper 'wouldn't make much sense'

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says 'it wouldn't make much sense' to take part in a leaders' debate without Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper, since it's the prime minister's job he's after.

NDP leader urges Harper to take part in the consortium debates

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair will announce the final list of debates in which he will participate during the 2015 campaign on Monday. (Michelle Siu/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is calling on Stephen Harper to reconsider his decision not to participate in the traditional debates staged by a consortium of major broadcasters, a day after getting his first taste of what it's like to go toe-to-toe with the Conservative leader.

"It goes without saying that since Stephen Harper is the person I want to defeat and replace, I'll take part in debates where he's present. Otherwise it wouldn't make much sense, would it?" said Mulcair, less than 24 hours after taking part in a two-hour televised leaders' debate hosted by Maclean's magazine.

"We're asking the prime minister to accept the invitation from the consortium," Mulcair said on the eve of a self-imposed deadline to consider proposals put forward by potential hosts during the 2015 campaign.

"We've been calling for proposals," Mulcair said during a campaign stop in Peterborough, Ont., on Friday. "We received a couple of dozen so far."

The federal parties have been playing a game of chicken after Harper rejected the traditional debates staged by the country's largest broadcasters.

The group of networks known as the broadcast consortium includes CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV News, Global News, and Télé-Québec. The English-language debate is set 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.

In addition to the two-hour televised debate hosted by Maclean's Thursday night, Harper has agreed to take part in debates proposed by the Globe and Mail and the Munk Debates, as well as a French-language debate staged by TVA.

Decision Monday

The NDP said it would take the weekend to decide which proposals it would accept and announce the final list of debates in which Mulcair will participate on Monday. 

In addition to having Harper present, the NDP has outlined other conditions for participating in more debates, including:

  • A non-partisan host.
  • Topics that are varied and relevant to a large number of Canadians.
  • An equal number of French and English debates.

Mulcair said he won't participate in the consortium debates if Harper doesn't change his mind, but not because he doesn't want to debate the other leaders.

"I want the other leaders to be present. I think Elizabeth May contributed a lot to last night's debate," he said of the Green Party leader on Friday.

But with the consortium debates in doubt, it's possible that last night's debate was May's only chance to reach a mass audience during an 11-week campaign.

May has not been invited to participate in the upcoming Globe and Mail and Munk debates.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has accepted to take part in the debates proposed by the broadcast consortium, the Globe and Mail, the French-language debate by TVA and a debate on women's issues, said Liberal pundit Rob Silver of the public affairs agency Crestview Strategy on Friday.

Silver said the proposal by the Munk Debates was under consideration.


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