School of Social and Political Science

New format for Canadian election debates would make more time for leaders to present their policies


An Edinburgh researcher has proposed a new format for leader debates in Canadian elections, prioritising time for leaders to share simple information about their policies and benefiting, first and foremost, the least-informed voters.

The proposal comes from research following the 2019 and 2021 elections, during which there were unnecessary controversies around the debate. Among others, journalists questions were perceived as editorial, rather than to gather information for voters.

Researcher Dr Jean-François Daoust, of the School of Social and Political Science, has co-authored the proposal with André Blais and suggested leaders’ debates should “…combine two formats: solo presentations by the leaders and a series of mini-debates between two of them at a time.

“The debates should provide them with the opportunity to tell us why we should vote for them (in solo presentations) and to contrast their views with those of their rivals (in mini-debates). Let’s give them the space they deserve to be heard by their fellow citizens.”

Helping least-informed voters

The main objective of the leaders’ debates should be to help the least-informed citizens learn some basic facts about the previous government, what the various parties promise to do if they form the next government, and the personal qualities and shortcomings of the leaders.

Canada’s Leaders Debate Commission

Dr Jean-François Daoust (University of Edinburgh) and Professor André Blais (Université de Montréal) began their analyses after being invited by the Leaders’ Debate Commission of Canada, created in 2015 by the newly elected Trudeau government.  

Sharing findings and recommendations

Dr Daoust and Professor Blais share these findings and a full list of potential debate formats in a new article:

A better way to hold leaders’ debates in elections | Policy Options

Find out more

Visit Dr Jean-François Daoust’s profile

Politics and International Relations at the School of Social and Political Science