Federal leaders’ election debates kick off Aug.6

A combination picture shows New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair (L-R), Conservative Party leader and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau attending the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 3, 2015. A federal election in which the three will lead their parties, is planned for later in the year. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau will have much to discuss in their first debate slated for early August.

The Conservative Party of Canada has been focusing its attacks on Trudeau as the October election looms.

The New Democrats have gone after the party in power with an ad highlighting the ethical breaches and criminal charges that have brought down political staff, members of Parliament and senators alike.

And the Liberals have been challenging the Conservatives on using public money for advertisements they say have pointed political messages.

When they meet before the cameras in August, the three party leaders will be facing off in a national debate organized for the first time by someone other than the Election Broadcasting Consortium.

The group, an informal committee made up of CBC News, CTV News, Global TV and French broadcaster TVA, has until this year been in charge of the organization, format and timing of the debates. Ratings showed the 2011 debates, carried live on all of the channels in the consortium, attracted 14 million viewers.

But in early May the Conservatives walked away from negotiations with the consortium, with party spokesman (and former Sun Media executive) Kory Teneycke saying the group “effectively excluded” other media and the new platforms on which Canadians are consuming content.

Despite attracting criticism for the move, Harper appears unlikely to lose support by skipping the consortium debates. A study of Twitter users by data analytics company Advanced Symbolics found the people most opposed to the move were young, left-leaning and unlikely to be supporting Harper in the first place.

Teneycke said that Harper plans to participate in five debates during the run-up to the Oct. 19 vote.

Because of that, Rogers and Maclean’s will host the first debate of the election season on Aug. 6. TVA is planning its own debate in French, with the Globe and Mail and Google Canada joining up to organize a third one that will be focused on the economy.

The other parties have agreed to participate in the consortium debates, still planned to go ahead with an English-language debate on Oct. 8, raising the possibility of a four-party discussion on national policy from which the prime minister is absent.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, whose devil-may-care attitude made him a star at previous English debates, will only appear at the consortium’s French-language debate on Oct. 7.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who has complained in the past about being excluded from some national debates, will only share the stage with Harper at the Rogers/Maclean’s event on Aug. 6.

She wasn’t invited to the Globe or TVA debates, or another planned discussion organized by the Toronto-based Munk Debates group. She will, however, attend the consortium debates in October.

Dates for federal election debates:

Aug. 6
Organized by Maclean’s and Rogers
Location: 8 p.m. ET in Toronto
Moderator: Paul Wells, Maclean’s political editor
Topic: General, including the economy, democracy, foreign policy, and security
Featuring:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper
New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
Available: City, OMNI channels, CPAC, livestreamed on Macleans.ca

Sept. 17
Hosted by The Globe and Mail and Google
Location: TBA in Calgary
Moderator: TBA
Topic: The economy
Featuring:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper
New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (unconfirmed)
Available: CPAC, Livestream on the Globe & Mail website. Available to major networks and other media outlets to simulcast

Oct. 2
Organized by TVA
Location: 8 p.m. ET in Montreal
Moderator: TVA anchor Pierre Bruneau
Topic: General, in French
Featuring:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper
New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe
Available: TVA-owned channels and streamed on its website

Oct. 7
Organized by the Election Broadcasting Consortium
Location: TBA
Moderator:
Topic: General, in French
Featuring:
New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Oct. 8
Organized by the Election Broadcasting Consortium
Location: 6:30 p.m. TBA
Moderators: Peter Mansbridge (CBC), Dawna Friesen (Global News), Lisa Laflamme (CTV News)
Topic: General, in English
Featuring:
New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
Available: live on CBC, Global, and CTV, live-streamed on their websites

Munk Debates
Location: TBA
Moderator: Munk chairman Rudyard Griffiths
Topic: Foreign policy
Featuring:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper
New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (unconfirmed)
Available: CPAC. Available to major networks and other media outlets to simulcast

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