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Leaders' Debates Commissioner David Johnston sets participation criteria for next federal general election

June 22, 2021 – Ottawa (Ontario)

Commissioner David Johnston today announces the participation criteria for the next federal leaders' debates in accordance with the Commission's amended mandate. 

In order to be invited to participate in the leaders' debates, the Commissioner has decided that a leader of a political party must meet one of the following criteria:

(i): on the date the general election is called, the party is represented in the House of Commons by a Member of Parliament who was elected as a member of that party; or
(ii): the party's candidates for the most recent general election received at that election at least 4% of the number of valid votes cast; or
(iii): five days after the date the general election is called, the party receives a level of national support of at least 4%, determined by voting intention, and as measured by leading national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recently publicly-reported results.

With regards to criteria (iii), the Commission will select public opinion polls based on the quality of the methodology employed, the reputation of the polling organizations, and the frequency and timeliness of the polling conducted. 

David Johnston, Commissioner of the Leaders' Debates Commission, said:

"We carefully reviewed and considered several factors and sources of advice before creating these participation criteria. We examined how debate participation criteria had been applied in past Canadian elections, took into account a number of reports by think tanks, the Government of Canada as well our 2019 report to Parliament, and engaged in a consultation process with registered political parties and a range of stakeholders. We also balanced both past electoral success and the possibility of future success.

These criteria rest on the Commission's Order in Council, which says leaders' debates should "benefit from the participation of the leaders who have the greatest likelihood of becoming Prime Minister or whose political parties have the greatest likelihood of winning seats in Parliament." They are also informed by our guiding principles that debates organized by the Commission should use simple, clear and objective criteria."

The Commission will announce which political parties will take part in the debates no later than six days after the date the general election is called.

For more information, view our participation criteria for the 44th general election.


Chantal Ouimet
Director of Communications
Leaders' Debates Commission

About the Leaders' Debates Commission

The Leaders' Debates Commission is an independent and impartial public body. Its mandate is to organize two leaders' debates for the next federal general election, one in each official language, while paying special attention to Canada's Indigenous languages. The Commission is also responsible for engaging a debates producer, setting participation criteria and determining which political leaders are invited to participate in the debates, as well as working with the debates producer to develop a format that reflects the public interest, while respecting journalistic independence.

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Date modified: June 22, 2021