NOMA caught up in leaders' debate flap


Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak won’t be joining his rivals to debate Northern Ontario issues on Monday.
The party says the debate organizers made the decision to pick a date that “only worked for some parties, not all.”
But the event’s sponsor says the province’s three main political parties received the same notice about the leaders’ debate and none got preferential treatment.
“All (party) offices knew about it — the (possible) dates were out there well in advance,” Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association president Dave Canfield said Wednesday.
Canfield was responding to a sour-toned news release from Hudak’s office suggesting that NOMA favoured the Liberals and the NDP when planning Monday’s debate.
“It’s unfortunate that organizers of the NOMA debate made the decision to pick a date that only worked for some parties, not all,” said the release.
“Given the important issues that face the North, it was our hope that there would have been an equal opportunity for all parties to communicate their plans for the North,” the release continued.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath have both committed to the Thunder Bay event.
Hudak campaign spokesman Will Stewart said after the news release went out that a scheduling conflict is preventing Hudak from attending Monday’s noon-hour debate at the Valhalla Inn.
“We have a full day,” said Stewart. “That day doesn’t work for us.”
Stewart declined to say what Hudak will be doing on Monday.
NOMA said all three parties were told on May 7 of three possible dates: May 26, June 2 and June 3.
As the month wore on, all three parties were advised that May 26 made the most sense in terms of trying to accommodate the three leaders, the media travelling with them and the availability of the Valhalla Inn, said NOMA executive-director Kristen Oliver.
“The May 26 date should not have come as a surprise,” said Oliver.

(For the full story, please see the Thursday, May 22, 2014 print edition of The Chronicle-Journal, or our digital eSubscription. You may subscribe to the electronic version by clicking at the icon at the top right corner of this page.)