In 1988, Liberal John Turner (L) had some strong attacks against Conservative Brian Mulroney (R) on the Free Trade Agreement with the US, but not quite enough to sway voters opinions. Four years earlier Mulroney had landed a knockout blow against Turner on patronage appointments. It is interesting to note that 31 years later it was the Liberals promoting the free trade deal and Conservatives criticising it. However, this time the scandals of the governing Trudeau Liberals, cost of living, housing expense and the environment are expected to be major issues in the coming televised debates. (Fred Charland-CP)

Political leaders debates: Importance and ability to sway voters

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It is now expected that the official announcement of the election will be announced tomorrow. At 10 AM Prime minister Justin Trudeau will formally ask the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament. In the lead up to voting day on October 21st, five televised debates have been organised for the leaders of the federal parties as each one tries to convince voters they should be elected over their opponents.

There are two “official” debates, one in English and one in French, but two other important English ones have been set up and one other in French.

Prime Minister Trudeau has declined to participate in the two non-official English debates, meaning he will debate only once in English.

Peter Loewen (PhD) is a political science professor and Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto talks about the significance of the debates in determining the next leader of the country.

Political Science professor Peter Loewen (PhD) of the University of Toronto discusses the importance of political leader televised debates.

There are now six political parties vying for Canadian votes on the federal scene. The latest is the People’s Party of Canada, which leans furthest to the right in Canada. It is led by former Conservative Maxime Bernier.

For the first time there is an official Leaders’ Debates Commission to organise a debate in English and another in French, the two official languages of Canada.

Left to right, top row: Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Bottom row: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet. (via CBC)

The website states, “Debates play an essential role in Canada’s democracy. They give you a chance to see the character, temperament, and unscripted approaches of leaders seeking to be Canada’s Prime Minister”.

Professor Loewen agrees, saying the more debates, the better for democracy.  He also notes that in the leaders debates since the first televised debate in 1968, there have been some in which decisive voter opinions resulted from the leaders’ comments, and others where no major points were made.

The official debates will feature the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Green parties. Maxime Bernier of the PPC was not invited as he had won his seat under the Conservative banner, and it is doubtful if the PPC can win more than one seat in the election. That may change if the PPC shows they have a chance of winning in at least 3 ridings.

Trudeau says he will not participate in the non-official Munk debate on foreign policy nor in the Maclean’s debate, both of which will host the four others, but again not the PPC.

Elizabeth May is protesting her exclusion from the non-official French language TVA debate, which says it will invite only parties that have representatives in Quebec. The Green party with two members of Parliament has no elected member in the mainly French language province.

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