Each of the two official leaders’ debates in the 2019 election campaign will cover five major topics and include five questions submitted by Canadian citizens, the media partnership responsible for producing the debates announced on Monday.
The two-hour English-language debate — scheduled for the evening of Oct. 7, 2019, two weeks before Canadians head to the polls — will be divided into five themed blocks: affordability and economic insecurity; environment and energy; Indigenous issues; national and global leadership; and polarization, human rights and immigration.
WATCH: Federal Election 2019 — Leaders debates to focus on five key topics
The two-hour French-language debate on Oct. 10, meanwhile, will cover economy and finances; environment and energy; foreign policy and immigration; identity, ethics and governance; and services to citizens.
“For us, debates are a really important moment in our democracy,” said Jennifer McGuire, CBC’s representative on the Canadian Debate Production Partnership, group of media organizations responsible for producing and disseminating the 2019 official debates.
Several factors influenced which editorial topics were selected, including polling data and major issues that have come up during the campaign, according to McGuire.
“These themes of both debates reflect the most urgent concerns of voters across the country and were reflected in the approximately 8,900 questions submitted by Canadians for the leaders,” McGuire said in a news release.
Slightly different formats for English, French debates
Ten of those questions from Canadians will make it into the two debates, which will have similar — but not identical — formats.
All five blocks of the English debate will include one question from a Canadian, one question from a journalist moderator and one leader-to-leader question, capped off by a leader-to-leader debate.
In the French debate, each of the five segments will include one question from a Canadian, an open debate between three of the six federal party leaders invited to participate, an open debate between the remaining three leaders and, finally, “questions in quick succession from a journalist.”
In both debates, an open debate between all six leaders will follow the five segments, each of which will last about 22 minutes.
In response to a question from Global News about how the debate partnership is balancing the events’ two-hour schedule with having six leaders on stage, McGuire acknowledged the timing will be “tight.”
“It will move as a production,” she said. “If we could, would we cheat and get a little more time all round? Of course we would, but that’s not on the table for today.”
The six leaders who were invited to the debates and have confirmed their attendance are:
- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau
- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer
- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
- Green party Leader Elizabeth May;
- Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and
- People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier
Bernier had originally been shut out of the official leaders’ debates but was recently invited to participate after the debates commissioner ultimately determined his party satisfied the necessary criteria.
McGuire said the six leaders were briefed on the chosen themes prior to Monday’s announcement but added they won’t be informed of their order until three days before each debate.
On Monday, representatives from each of the six parties also participated in several draws to determine the leaders’ speaking order, podium positions, arrival times and post-debate press conference times.
Date, time, location of official debates
The English-language debate will run from 7-9 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. The French-language debate has been scheduled for 8-10 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.
Both debates will take place before a live audience at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Parliament Hill.
The members of the Canadian Debate Production Partnership are:
- Global News
- CBC News
- CTV News
- Toronto Star and the Torstar chain
- HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec
- La Presse
- Le Devoir
A few other debates not organized by the partnership either have already taken place or are scheduled for sometime this month.
The first debate of the 2019 election campaign, hosted by Maclean’s and Citytv, saw Scheer, Singh and May square off on Sept. 12. Trudeau declined to attend.
Before the six leaders take to the stage at the Museum of History, four of them will square off during a French-language debate in Montreal on Oct. 2 hosted by Quebec-based TV network TVA.
A foreign-policy election debate organized by the Munk Debates and scheduled for Oct. 1 was cancelled last week because Trudeau refused to attend.
Below: A real-time tally of the total usage of the official #CanadaDebates2019 hashtag