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2021 Post-Mortem Feedback

Following the recent September 20, 2021 federal election, the Leaders' Debates Commission is launching a consultation on the two leaders' debates it organized during the campaign.

The Commission's mandate, specified by Order in Council, was to organize two debates, one in French and one in English, and to submit a report to government by February 20 2022.

The Commission's mission is to make these debates as meaningful as possible and to reach as many voters as possible. In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission, led by David Johnston, tendered the production of the debates to a wide coalition of media organizations and made the debates available in numerous minority languages including Indigenous languages.

In preparing its recommendations to government, the Commission is seeking a wide range of views on the debates. As such, it would appreciate your comments and suggestions on how to make them better. We are looking at a number of issues, including production, number of debates, hosting, format, themes and questions, and the role of the Commission.

Below is a discussion guide to help you with your feedback.  

Introduction: 
In 2018, the Leaders' Debates Commission was created by the Government of Canada to ensure debates serve the public interest and are predictable, reliable, and stable.  The independent Commission, and by extension, the producer it selects to organize the debates, have become custodians of this public trust.

The Commission has now worked to fulfil its mandate for both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. This work has included building relationships with stakeholders, setting and interpreting debate participation criteria, selecting debates producers, and building awareness about the debates that it organizes – debates that are widely transmitted, broadcast free of charge, and accessible to as many Canadians as possible in a range of languages and formats. 

We have now organized debates for both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.  These debates reached millions of Canadians.  We released our report, "Debates Matter, Democracy Counts," after the 2019 debates, and we are now beginning to prepare our next report, to be submitted by February 2022.    

In turning our minds to the future, your views on these debates, the operation of the present Commission, and the future of debates in Canada would be greatly appreciated.

There are a series of questions below to prompt you for input. 

Please feel free to answer any of the questions that are of interest to you, or to share more general comments if you prefer. 

Questions:

1. The 2021 debates: In your view, what are the goals of leaders' debates?  Did the 2021 debates achieve these goals?  What succeeded and what could be improved next time?

2. Participation Criteria: In 2021, the Debates Commissioner set the participation criteria for the debates. What did you think of those criteria? Where they the right criteria? Did the application of the criteria make sense? Were they applied at the right time? Do you think the public interest is best served with wide participation or with a more narrow participation?

3. Format: What do you think an ideal debate format looks like?  Did the 2021 format work? Would another debate format work better? Is it more important that the debates cover a wide range of topics or that they dive deep into a few key topics? Historically debate producers and moderators have focused on equality of time for each leader: How important is this to the public interest? Does the focus on time and the clock erode spirit of "debate"? Or, without such a focus, would the debate be too cacophonous?

4. Editorial: In 2019 and 2021 the Commission was not involved in the themes or questions posed to leaders or in the selection of the moderators. How can a Commission best represent the public interest editorially, while still protecting journalistic independence? What is the role of a debate moderator? Is it to serve as an enabler/facilitator, or as an intervener? Who should choose the moderator?

5. Role of the Commission: There are a range of options for the future of debates in Canada and for the role of a Leaders' Debates Commission or another similar entity.  Broadly speaking, these options could include maintaining the status quo Commission, making modest adjustments to the Commission, making comprehensive changes to the Commission and its mandate, or eliminating the Commission.  In your view, is there a role for a Leaders' Debates Commission, and if so, what should that role be? What did the Commission do well in 2021? What did it not do well? If there is a Commission, should it organize more than two debates in each election? Or do you think it would be better if a Commission supported other organizations in their efforts to organize debates? What would that look like?

Please email your comments to info@debates-debats.ca by Friday, October 29, 2021.

Date modified: October 14, 2021