Ottawa hopes to have independent body organize leaders’ debates
LONDON, Ont. — The Trudeau government intends to create an independent body to organize leaders’ debates during federal elections — and hopes to have it in place in time for the 2019 campaign.
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould is inviting people to provide ideas for how an arm’s-length, election debate commissioner or commission should work.
She’s giving them until Feb. 9 to provide online feedback.
Over the next few weeks, she’ll also be holding roundtable discussions across the country with academics, media leaders and public interest groups, to be moderated by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
The issue is also currently being studied by a House of Commons committee.
Gould says the goal is to have an independent commissioner or commission in place before the next federal election in 2019.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 campaign, when the issue became a political football, to create an independent body to organize future leaders’ debates.
Until 2015, Canadian voters traditionally got at least two opportunities during each campaign to assess party leaders in televised debates — one French, one English — organized by a consortium of broadcasters.
During each campaign, the format of those debates, as well as which leaders would be invited to take part, was negotiated among the consortium members and the parties, each of which would try to advance their own interests.
The politicization of the debates got worse in 2015 when the Conservatives served notice that Stephen Harper, then the prime minister, would not participate in consortium-organized debates.
A series of other debates, organized by a variety of media outlets, were held instead but reached a much smaller audience.
From left to right, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Green party Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pose for photos before the French-language leaders’ debate on September 24, 2015.
The Trudeau government intends to create an independent body to organize leaders’ debates during federal elections and it hopes to have it in place in time for the 2019 campaign.