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Harper rejects participating in national English TV debate

Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes an announcement in Grosse-Ile, Que., Friday May 22, 2015. The federal government says it will invest $30-million over three years in the country's tourism sector in order to attract more Americans north of the border.

Clement Allard/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated Friday he will not take part in a national English debate that would be broadcast by the major TV networks.

During a visit Friday to Grosse-Ile, Que., Harper was asked at least twice why he would not participate in the multi-platformed debate being set up by the consortium.

The networks have announced a partnership with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and YouTube.

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"The position of the party has been clear on this question for some time," Harper responded. "The Conservative party is ready to participate in a maximum of five debates in total, which is a record for federal campaigns in our country."

Conservative party spokesman Kory Teneycke has said the party firmly rejected the consortium's proposal two weeks ago and selected alternative debates.

"From our perspective the slots have been filled with respect to the English debates," Teneycke said in an email.

The possibility remains, however, the party could say yes to just the French-language consortium debate

As of Thursday, the Conservatives were already on board for four debates being organized by three news organizations and a Toronto-based private foreign policy group.

The NDP, Liberals and Green party reached an agreement in principle Thursday with the television consortium that has traditionally organized the election debates. It provides for two national broadcasts with simultaneous translation.

The consortium includes CBC's French and English networks, Global News and CTV.

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The English-language broadcast will feature the NDP's Tom Mulcair, the Liberals' Justin Trudeau and the Green party's Elizabeth May, while the French-language broadcast will also feature Bloc Quebecois Leader Mario Beaulieu.

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