Ot­tawa hopes to have in­de­pen­dent body or­ga­nize lead­ers’ de­bates

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NATIONAL -

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.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

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.

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