POLITICS
07/31/2019 12:42 EDT | Updated 07/31/2019 23:21 EDT

Federal Election Debates To Be Hosted By Partnership Of Canadian News Outlets

HuffPost Canada is the debates' first digital-only producer.

Adrian Wyld/Pool/Reuters
From left to right: Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, then-Conservative leader Stephen Harper, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, Green party Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are flanked by debate moderators as they take part in the French-language debate in Montreal on Sept. 24, 2015.

TORONTO — An unprecedented partnership of news outlets will be responsible for producing two federal leaders’ election debates.

The Leaders’ Debates Commission announced Wednesday that the Canadian Debate Production Partnership (CDPP), which includes HuffPost Canada and the country’s top broadcasters and major print outlets, will be the events’ official producer. 

The English debate is proposed for Oct. 7 and in French on Oct. 10. Both events will be held in the Ottawa-area. The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 21.

For the first time, the debates will be free for anyone to access and distribute through broadcast or streaming services, said a news release from the first-ever debates commissioner and former governor general David Johnston.

The two debates will be available to all Canadians in English and French, and for the first time, in some Indigenous languages and non-official languages, as well as American sign language, Quebec sign language, closed captioning and described video.

The partnership is made up of: 

  • HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec
  • CBC News
  • Radio-Canada
  • Global News
  • CTV News
  • The Toronto Star and Torstar
  • La Presse
  • Le Devoir 
  • L’Actualité.

With HuffPost’s inclusion, this will be the first time a digital-only news organization is part of the production group for the leaders’ debates.

Michel Cormier, executive director of the debates commission, told HuffPost Canada this alliance of news outlets is unprecedented in Canadian history.

“We’re very happy to see that this is the biggest coalition of media organizations ever to promote and distribute and promote debates in Canadian elections,” he said.

“We’re crossing a new threshold with having digital platforms like the Huffington Post. It takes us elsewhere and will make sure that more Canadians have access to this debate on the platform of their choice, which totally conforms with the way people access media today.”

It is a huge difference from the way that things were done before. The signal actually belongs to Canadians.Michel Cormier, Canadian Debates Commission

It’s important to ensure as many Canadians as possible are able to watch the debates in order to make an informed decision on election day, he added.

“It is a huge difference from the way that things were done before,” Cormier said. “The signal actually belongs to Canadians.”

‘Essential role in democracy’

Johnston said the CDPP was chosen because of the partners’ bodies of work.

“Debates play an essential role in our democracy and we are delighted to have the experience of the CDPP to help deliver high quality, informative, transparent debates to Canadians,” he said in a statement.

“We respect their experience delivering quality political journalism, their rich history producing engaging and informative journalism and their journalistic integrity.”

Last October, the federal government revealed plans to create an independent commission to organize the leaders’ debate for the 2019 federal election. The goal was to create a process that ensured the national debate was consistently included in federal election campaigns.

Part of the commission’s mandate is to deliver a report to Parliament outlining the lessons learned from the fall debate and recommendations for future ones.

Previously on HuffPost: No nationally televised English debate hurt the Greens, says Elizabeth May.