Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday September 7, 2019
Trudeau snubs Munk, Maclean’s/Citytv debates but will attend commission debates
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is committing to taking part in two federal election debates and is willing to do a third — but will be a no-show for both the Munk and Maclean’s/Citytv debates, despite efforts to convince the Liberal leader to take part.
The two debates that Trudeau has committed to attending are being organized by the Leaders’ Debates Commission, which was established after the last election and is led by former governor general David Johnston.
“The commission was established after the last election where the governing party tried to game the system and make sure the fewest number of Canadians engaged in the debates. We think that’s wrong,” Daniel Lauzon, the Liberals’ director of communications and policy for the campaign, said in a statement.
“The commission debates will be widely distributed on television, radio, digital and social streaming platforms and reach the largest possible audience.”
The decision means that Trudeau will not be taking part in the Munk Debates on foreign policy, set for Oct. 1 — a debate Trudeau did take part in during the 2015 election.
It also means the prime minister will not participate in the Maclean’s/Citytv leaders debate scheduled to take place September 12.
So far, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May have all agreed to participate in the Munk and Maclean’s/Citytv debates.
A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said the debates are about Canadians, not the leaders, and Scheer would be attending all election debates.
“We know Justin Trudeau is a formidable debater, as he proved in the last election. The only reason he would have for not wanting to attend all the debates is that he’s afraid to defend his record,” Brock Harrison said in a statement.
During the 2015 election, then-prime minister Stephen Harper refused to participate in the English language debate being run by the consortium of broadcasters, the predecessor to the commission.
Harper instead agreed to participate in the Maclean’s/Citytv debate and the Globe and Mail debate, on top of the French language consortium debate, TVAs’ debate and the bilingual Munk debate on foreign policy.
The opposition at the time criticized Harper’s decision to snub the English language consortium debate in favour of smaller debates, some of which were only streamed online, as a move that prevented the largest possible audience from viewing the exchanges between party leaders.
Trudeau was keen to participate in multiple debates in 2015 — an election that saw the longest campaign period in modern Canadian history. But Trudeau’s critics now argue that he is cherry-picking debates for political reasons.
In the last election he was the third-party leader and had much to gain from engaging with other leaders at every opportunity. But as prime minister, Trudeau exposes himself to greater political risk by agreeing to additional debates. (CBC)