NDP Leader Mulcair is changing position on debates, say Liberals

LEADING up to the election campaign, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair agreed to attend as many as eight leaders’ debates. (Canadian Press, May 21) But last week, the NDP announced Mulcair would not be participating in any debates without Stephen Harper. The NDP also said that previous reports about attending debates were never confirmed and Mulcair had only agreed to participate “in principle.” (CBC News, August 5).

This latest decision has jeopardized many organized debates for Canadians, including the two traditional English and French debates, and “Up For Debate,” which is focused on women and girls, say the Liberals.

Further complicating the matter, Mulcair promised to participate in an equal number of French and English debates. Now, Mulcair has agreed “in principle” to one French and three English debates, further confusing the public on his stance.

This is a stark contrast from previous comments:

“The Conservatives and the NDP want many debates.” (Huffington Post, February 25)

“We want as many Canadians as possible to see him present the NDP’s plans.” (George Soule, NDP Spokesperson, CBC News, May 24)

“I’m a big fan of debates, as you might have noticed. I enjoy the back and forth of a lively debate. The more open, the better. And frankly, if there was [a] leaders’ debate every week of the next election campaign, I’d be there front and centre. I’d really enjoy that. I think that there should be a lot of debates.” (Thomas Mulcair, February 25, 2015)

Specifically on “Up For Debate” focused on women and girls:

“I’ve already signed on. I believe I’m the only leader of a recognized party in Parliament to have said that I’m willing to participate in a debate on women’s issues. The last one goes back to the ’84 election between Mulroney and Turner. I’d like to have a specific debate on women’s issues.” (Tom Mulcair, February 25)

Mulcair continued: “Heck, I’d love to see a specific debate on environmental issues. It’s something that, for me, is extremely important. So, why not? Let’s have the time to have full debates amongst the party leaders and I look forward to that. I like debates.” (Tom Mulcair, February 25)

The Liberals say that Mulcair’s new position on debates adds to his growing list of contradictory promises. Canadians should question whether Mulcair’s stance on debate attendance is the result of the increased criticism of his contradictions on key policies, including national unity and a “national minimum wage”:

On national unity: “It’s time for a clear answer, in both languages, from Mulcair.” (National Post, August 7)

On the NDP “national minimum wage” mirage: “People who have got better things to do with their time than parse the fine print or Google everything a leader says in the debate might be excused for coming away confused about what the NDP proposes.” (Ottawa Citizen, August 8)