Election leaders’ debates will be more accessible than ever, commission says

Both events will be held in the Ottawa area and are tentatively scheduled for October

Canadian political junkies will be able to access this fall’s federal election debates with unprecedented ease thanks in large part to strong media partnerships, the commission responsible for organizing the events said Wednesday as it lifted the veil on plans for the televised campaign confrontations.

Both events will be held in the Ottawa area and are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7 in English and Oct. 10 in French, said Michel Cormier, the executive director of the Leaders’ Debates Commission.

The production group includes broadcasters CBC News/Radio-Canada, Global, and CTV; newspapers Toronto Star, Le Devoir and the magazine L’Actualite; and digital outlets La Presse, HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Quebec.

READ MORE: Officials warned China, India could use communities in Canada to advance agendas

The large, diverse group of media partners means the debate should have strong reach across Canada, Cormier said: “Canadians will be able to watch the debates on the platform of their choice, at the time of their choosing.”

Perhaps the biggest change over debates in the past is that the events will be free to stream and distribute for anyone, meaning any Canadian can set up an event or gathering in order to watch the show, he added.

The debates will also be translated into several different languages, including some Indigenous languages, as well as Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi and Italian, though Cormier said that list is not finalized.

Canadians with disabilities should also have easier access, he noted, as the debates will have sign language interpretation, closed captioning and described video.

The ease-of-access is important, Cormier said, because leaders’ debates could serve as points in the campaign where “all people have access to the same information in real time, that’s unmediated and undistorted.”

Some work remains to be done for the commission, including the interpretation of the criteria under which leaders will be allowed to participate.

Those criteria have already been set by the federal government, and leaders must meet two of the three: representation in the current House of Commons by a member who was elected as a member of that party; a determination of whether the party will run candidates in 90 per cent of electoral districts; and whether the party received at least four per cent of valid votes in the last election.

A party can also meet the third criterion if the debates commissioner decides it has a “legitimate chance” of winning seats.

Based on those criteria, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois already qualify. Green party Leader Elizabeth May will also likely make the cut, since the party has two seats in Parliament and is on track to field candidates in more than 90 per cent of ridings.

That leaves Maxime Bernier, leader of the nascent People’s Party of Canada and a longtime Conservative until he quit the caucus last summer to form his own party. Bernier doesn’t meet the first threshold, since he wasn’t elected under the PPC banner. However, the party has nominated 306 candidates — 90.5 per cent of Canada’s 338 available seats, a spokesperson said.

That means Bernier’s participation depends on whether the debates commissioner — former governor general David Johnston — believes the party has a chance to win seats this fall.

The formation of a federal commission to organize debates is a departure from the way televised discussions between party leaders were traditionally put together.

Prior to this year, debates were often organized by a consortium of Canadian broadcast networks. Following the 2015 election, however, which was marked by controversy over who would be taking part, the federal government established the commission to provide a neutral third-party organizer.

Conservative leader and incumbent prime minister Stephen Harper refused to participate in the consortium debates; Tom Mulcair, who was NDP leader at the time, then refused to take part without Harper.

Harper eventually joined a consortium-produced French debate, but the only English events were smaller debates organized by various producers, with varying participation by leaders.

Cormier said Wednesday the commission was “very confident” the debates this year would be a success.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

federal election 2019

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Socially distanced shoreline cleanup coming

Watershed Watch asks people to clean up Katzie Slough and other waterways

Maple Ridge firefighters battle pair of early morning blazes

Downtown Japanese restaurant and residential home catch fire Friday

RCMP investigating tire slashing in Pitt Meadows

Nine cars were vandalized in the early hours of Thursday morning

Beckett Park officially open in Maple Ridge

A community celebration is being planned when COVID-19 pandemic passes

Quintuple open heart surgery motivates Maple Ridge cyclist to ride for kids

Ron Paley has already cycled 226 km as part of Great Cycle Challenge to help fight kids cancers

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Fraser Valley egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read