The NDP says Tom Mulcair won't participate in any leaders' debates during the election campaign if they don't include Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In laying down that condition, the NDP has likely driven the final nail in the coffin of the traditional debates hosted by a consortium of the country's largest broadcasters.
The Conservative party has already ruled out Harper's participation in the consortium debates — one French, one English, proposed to take place less than two weeks before the Oct. 19 vote.
And unless Harper changes his mind, now Mulcair won't take part either.
It's doubtful the consortium will press ahead with its proposal without two of the three main party leaders.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May reacted furiously Friday to the NDP's debate conditions, accusing Mulcair of colluding with Harper to kill off the debates that would have the widest audience. And she said it's all aimed at keeping her off centre stage throughout the campaign.
"This stinks to high heaven," she said in an interview.
"Tom Mulcair has just killed the best opportunity that Canadian voters had to get accountability from a sitting prime minister from opposition party leaders in the forum that reaches the most Canadians."
According to May, all opposition parties agreed to stick together supporting the consortium debates, in hopes of eventually pressuring Harper to show up or face having the Conservatives represented by an empty podium. The NDP's "shameful betrayal" has now let Harper off the hook, May said.
So far, Harper has agreed to participate in only four debates, starting with one hosted by Maclean's magazine next Thursday.
The other three, scheduled throughout the fall, are being hosted by Quebec television network TVA, the Munk Debates and the Globe and Mail-Google Canada.
"Thanks to Mulcair's doublecross," May said she will now be allowed to take part in only the Maclean's debate. She has not been invited to the others.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the fact Mulcair is considering dropping out of the consortium debates shows he's "behaving a little too much like Mr. Harper, for the Canadians who want change."
The only scheduled French-language debate, hosted by TVA, won't reach francophones all across the country, Trudeau added.
"If Mr. Mulcair decides to pull out of the debates we will have only one debate in French across the country — and it won't even be available across the country, because TVA doesn't go everywhere."
The Conservatives have said Harper will participate in five debates but has not so far identified the fifth.
The NDP said Friday that Mulcair would participate in an equal number of French and English debates. But that would quire either Harper agreeing to participate in two more debates or Mulcair pulling out of at least one of the four already agreed upon.
In an apparent attempt to force a speedy decision, the NDP set a deadline, saying it will consider debate proposals until 5 p.m. ET on Aug. 7.