8 things to know ahead of the first federal debate today

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Campaigning for the 2015 federal elections have kicked off, and Maclean’s will be hosting the first formal debate. The broadcast will be live on August 6 at 5 p.m. and will feature Stephen Harper (Conservative), Thomas Mulcair (NDP), Justin Trudeau (Liberal) and Elizabeth May (Green).

Here are some points you should know ahead of the debate.

1. This may be one of only four debates held with these federal leaders together

The Conservatives have rejected their invitation for this election’s consortium debates — which consists of a network of broadcasters including CBC, Tele-Quebec, CTV News, Global News and Radio-Canada. The consortium spokesperson has criticized this decision, claiming their networks can reach a greater audience than the debates Harper has agreed to participate in, such as the Maclean’s debate.

The Conservatives will only agree to as many as five debates. So far four debates have been confirmed. In an attempt to add pressure on the Tories, Mulcair said that he will not take part in the consortium debate if Harper is not attending.

2. Naturally, Mulcair and Trudeau have less experience debating than Harper

The 2011 Canadian Federal Election Debate captured Harper’s thorough debating skills. As Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe grilled the Prime Minister with hard-hitting questions, Harper came through looking levelheaded. His tactic is to tranquilly come through with a reassuring message to dismiss attempts to bash his policies.

Regardless, Harper has now been Prime Minister for nearly a decade, and parties have plenty to pick apart when it comes to his policy decisions. Mulcair is reportedly holding mock debates and is taking this first debate very seriously. He has been great in keeping Harper on his toes during the House of Commons Question Periods. Mulcair was also praised by ex-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for being the “best leader of the Opposition since John Diefenbaker.”

3. The early election call was all about money

With the approval of Governor General David Johnson, Harper dissolved parliament on August 2 to start the election campaign, making this the longest election campaign in recent history. Harper defended the early election call by stating parties were already in election mode, and dissolving parliament was a way to ensure spending limits are in place and parties do not use government resources for their campaign – though many have criticized him, calling an 11-week campaign a waste of taxpayers’ money.

In an election, the writ period normally lasts 36 days, constraining parties to a $24-million spending limit on campaigning. Though the writ period has been dropped, and since the Fair Elections Act was passed, every addition day of campaigning the limit is extended by $676,000.

4. Expect lots about the economy

With financial crises taking on Greece and China, Canada’s economy is expected to be one of the main topics of discussion. Our country is inching towards a recession, with the GDP falling 0.2 per cent in May.

“Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record of any Prime Minister since 1960,” said Mulcair on his first day of campaigning.

5. Leaders are expected to speak out against Bill C-51

The NDP and Green Party have made their stance against Bill C-51, and while Mulcair and May have their positions clear, Trudeau is another story.

Although the Liberals have shown support for Bill C-51, Trudeau has said that there are still some major flaws to the legislation. Instead of showing support, Trudeau may take this debate as an opportunity to attack pieces of the bill. While visiting students at UBC back in March, Trudeau’s message was: vote me in, and I’ll make amendments.

6. Action on climate change is expected to be an important topic of discussion

President Barack Obama’s climate change action plan in the U.S. will have major impact in the political world in Canada as well, as his Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

In Canada, the election will be heavy on climate change talk. Under the Harper government, major pipeline projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline have gotten federal approval, which has been a key targeting area for opposing parties looking to disapprove the Conservatives as economically friendly.

7. Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria

The Harper government has made Canada commit to supporting the U.S. in military missions throughout Iraq and Syria, which has seen CF-18 jets and more than 600 members of the Canadian military deployed to fight ISIS.

While the Harper government wants to continue the campaign, both the Liberals and the NDP want to pull out, end the bombing campaign and boost humanitarian efforts instead.

8. There are multiple methods to watch the debate

The Maclean’s National Leaders Debate starts at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, and it will be broadcast coast-to-coast.

You can watch the debate in English on City, in both English and French on CPAC, and in Italian, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese on OMNI. The debate will also be streamed live on Maclean’s website as well as their YouTube channel.

A recorded version of the debate will subsequently be posted on Maclean’s website.

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Behdad Mahichi is currently an Editorial Assistant at Vancity Buzz and a journalism student at Ryerson University. He writes about anything from entertainment and politics to his misfortunately extreme caffeine addiction.
@bmahichi

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