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 giving you more information on different political parties and their policy platforms.

Until the 2015 federal election, leaders’ debates were organized by a group of Canada’s five major television networks. In 2018, a Leaders’ Debate Commission was created to organize leaders’ debates for the 2019 election. Led by an independent commissioner and supported by a seven-member advisory board, the Commission’s mandate was to organize two leaders’ debates (one in each official language).

On June 1, 2020, the Leaders’ Debates Commission released a report on its experiences organizing debates during the 2019 election. The report includes findings and recommendations to inform the future of debates in Canada, and a principal recommendation to establish a permanent, publicly funded entity to organize leaders’ debates:

As part of the creation of the Commission, the Government of Canada sought feedback through:

  • an online consultation open to all Canadians;
  • a series of roundtable discussions led by the then-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.

Online Consultation

In January and February 2018, Canadians submitted over 400 comments about the political party leaders’ debates, with an additional 14,000 emails submitted outside of the online consultation portal.

Roundtable Discussions

In January 2018, five roundtable discussions took place across the country – in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. They 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

In November 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. The committee published a report based on its study, Creation of an Independent Commissioner Responsible for Leaders’ Debates, in March 2018.

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