Information on the Debates
The two main publicly funded “party leaders’ debates” will be held this week. The English debate is on Monday, October 7 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm EST; the French will be held on Thursday, October 10 from 8:00 to 10:00 pm EST. Both will be held before a live audience at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. The two debates will be broadcast on 11 television stations, three radio networks, 20 social media/digital platforms and in four different accessible formats (Closed Captioned, Described Video, American Sign Language, and Quebec Sign Language). The English debate will be available with Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Italian, Plains Cree and Inuktitut translation. The French will have no Inuktitut translation and have East Cree instead of Plains Cree. “Live viewing parties” are scheduled for select bookstores, libraries and 24 Cineplex movie theatres.
A “Leaders’ Debate Commission” was appointed by the Trudeau government to organize the debates on the basis of a mandate and instructions issued by the Liberal Party. When the government introduced the Commission, it stated that “leaders’ debates play an essential role in Canada’s federal elections.” They “provide a platform through which all Canadians can take part in the public discourse on issues of national importance,” it added. It appointed former governor-general David Johnson to lead the Commission saying, “Given that debates are an important exercise in our democracy, establishing an independent commissioner to organize the debates would help ensure that the interests of Canadians, rather than private entities and political parties, are central to how leaders’ debates are organized and broadcast.”
Commissioner David Johnson said that the debates will have a scope and reach “unprecedented in our political history.” He expressed the hope that Canadians “will come together in this shared experience,” and described the two events as “an opportunity for the country to come together; to watch or listen to the same thing, at the same time, to gain a better understanding about the issues at hand and what they mean to people throughout the country.”
The Commission was given a budget of $6 million. It tendered a contract for producing the debates, which was won by the Canadian Debate Production Partnership. The “partnership” is a consortium of the following broadcasters and newspapers: CBC News/Radio-Canada, Global News, CTV News, the Toronto Star, HuffPost Canada/HuffPost Quebec, La Presse, Le Devoir and L’Actualit�. It is responsible for the format, questions and topics. According to Johnson, the “core responsibility” of the Commission will come in at $4.63 million. It is expected to provide the next Minister of Democratic Institutions with a report summing up the debates and providing recommendations for their future.
The debates will include the leaders of six of Canada’s 21 registered political parties: the Bloc Qu�b�cois, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the People’s Party of Canada.
The Consortium has already decided what issues are of concern to Canadians. It announced that the following themes will be addressed in the English debate: affordability and economic insecurity; national and global leadership; Indigenous issues; polarization, human rights and immigration; and environment and energy. The themes for the French debate are: economy and finances; environment and energy; foreign policy and immigration; identity, ethics and governance; services to citizens. These “issues” betray the ideological prejudices of the ruling elites. Designed to impose a veil over the eyes of Canadians on how problems can be provided with solutions, they are not only dismissive of real concerns but divisive as in the lumping together of “foreign policy and immigration” or “polarization, human rights and immigration. “