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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's political leaders do not just have to worry about holding their own in the opening election debate on Thursday. They will also be up against the enormous publicity-generating machine that is Donald Trump.
Halfway through the Canadian debate, Fox News is to start broadcasting the first debate among Republican contenders for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, starring Trump among others.
Arguably, it is more important for Canadian voters to watch their own leaders in the runup to the country's election on Oct. 19 rather than one tied to the November 2016 U.S. election. But for those people who are fascinated by U.S. politics, it may be a tricky decision.
As it is, it may be difficult enough to draw voters to a summer election debate.
"What cruel god decided this?" Justin Ling, a despairing Vice commentator, tweeted upon realizing the debates were on the same night.
For Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, it will be their first chance to go head-to-head with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Green leader Elizabeth May will also take part in the debate, which is being hosted by Maclean's, a weekly news magazine.
"Donald Trump will always be amusing and he will never be president, whereas one of the four people on our stage will certainly be prime minister after Oct 19," debate moderator Paul Wells, a Maclean's political columnist, said on Tuesday.
"We are confident that Canadians will not be distracted by Conservative attack ads, nor by Donald Trump," said a Liberal spokesman.
Conservative campaign officials were not immediately available for comment.
The New Democrats, though, were happy to take their lead from the combative U.S. real estate mogul.
"We're not running against Donald Trump. So for asking this question, you're fired," said Karl Belanger, adviser to leader Tom Mulcair, citing a catchphrase used on Trump's reality-TV show.
For the record, the Canadian debate starts at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday (midnight GMT) and runs for two hours. The Republican debate runs from 9 to 11 p.m. EDT.
Editing by Peter Galloway