Leaders' Debates

Leaders’ debates play an essential role in Canada’s federal elections. These debates engage Canadians in the electoral campaign. They help inform your vote by providing you with a forum to compare prospective Prime Ministers, while enhancing your knowledge of political parties and their policy platforms.

Given the importance of the debates, the Prime Minister has directed the Minister of Democratic Institutions to bring forward options to establish an independent commissioner to organize political party leaders’ debates during future federal election campaigns.

On October 30, 2018, the Minister announced the creation of a Leaders’ Debates Commission.

This new Commission’s initial mandate will be to organize two leaders’ debates—one in each official language—for the 2019 federal general election. Expected to be fully in place by spring 2019, the Leaders’ Debates Commission will be led by a Commissioner, and supported by a seven-member Advisory Board.

To help shape this announcement, the Government of Canada sought feedback through:

  • an online consultation open to all Canadians;
  • a series of roundtable discussions led by the Minister of Democratic Institutions, with participation from the media, academia and public interest groups; and 
  • a study by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Participants expressed the following general sentiments:

  • political party leaders’ debates are an essential contribution to the health of Canadian democracy;
  • there is broad support for and value in the creation of an independent commissioner that is guided by the public interest and that organizes debates in a manner that is fair, open, and transparent;
  • there is a need for clear parameters surrounding the leaders’ debates, such as format, content and participation; and
  • the distribution for leaders’ debates ought to be as broad as possible to maximize reach and accessibility for Canadians.

The three reports below detail feedback received through consultations, as well as findings and recommendations that are helping inform the Government of Canada’s next steps.

Online Consultation

From January 11, 2018 to February 12, 2018, Canadians put forward over 400 comments, with an additional 14,000 emails submitted outside of the online consultation portal as the result of a form letter writing campaign.

Roundtable Discussions

In January 2018, five roundtable discussions took place across the country – in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. They all followed a common agenda and included participants in the fields of academics, broadcast services, journalism, as well as stakeholder groups and individuals with experience with political parties.

Study by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

On November 21, 2017, the Committee began a study about the creation of an independent commissioner responsible for leaders’ debates. It heard testimony from the Minister of Democratic Institutions and from 33 witnesses over the course of eight meetings. The Committee also received written submissions from political parties and interested individuals. 

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