We have always been clear with the "Up for Debate" organizers that we wished to participate in the debate with the other leaders. In one of several meetings to discuss ways to move forward, the organizers seemed to understand that it would not make sense to have the debate without Prime Minister Stephen Harper. During our discussions, we offered several other options in the event that the Conservative refused to participate, including a town hall, a one-on-one interview event, or sending status of women critics.
The biggest problem is that, as a largely unfunded coalition, "Up for Debate" organizers have not been in a position to clarify or respond to our suggestions quickly enough to get the word out that we have been very supportive and have offered several options to highlight women’s issues, including working with them to get some of the issues incorporated into the debates that are now confirmed. The Harper government’s systematic under-funding of women’s organizations means that this is largely a volunteer effort.
We now have confirmation that "Up for Debate" is seriously considering organizing one-on-one interviews with the leaders and we expect that they will make the announcement shortly. We will, of course, participate enthusiastically and with pride.
Finally, it's important to note that during our meetings with "Up for Debate" organizers, we also took the opportunity to speak to the Party’s deep commitment to women’s issues including attracting a record number (43 percent) of women candidates (significantly more than the other parties), a requirement to support choice in our candidate application forms, a signature platform commitment to childcare with specific reference to the impact on women, a minimum wage commitment, a commitment to reverse the Conservatives' cuts to healthcare, and a pledge to hold a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women within the first 100 days of government.
The NDP has a long, proud history of fighting for women’s equality and we will continue to fight to improve the lives of Canadian women and girls in government.
And that is not up for debate.