CBC Digital Archives

1984 leaders debate on women's issues (highlights)

After months of anticipation and weeks of campaigning, it all comes down to one night. Televised leaders' debates can be the defining moments of federal election campaigns, a couple of hours that can make or break a politician's chances of running the country. From Pierre Trudeau's 1968 small screen debut to the fireworks and finger pointing of Mulroney vs. Turner and ending in 2011, the CBC Digital Archives presents each of the English debates from 1968 to 2011. Follow the news recaps with the "highlights" clips, or watch the debates in their entirety.

It's the first, and so far, only federal election debate on women's issues in Canadian history.  In 1984, the leaders of the country's three main political parties spar about abortion, daycare, equal pay, cutting the deficit and world peace.  In this final of the 1984 election's three televised debates, John Turner and Brian Mulroney play it safe, with Mulroney staying mum on abortion and Turner afraid to make a gaffe. But NDP Leader Ed Broadbent fires away, his policies in sync with the feminist agenda.

• The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) organized the 1984 debate on women's issues.  Over 2000 women lined up for two hours outside the Royal York Hotel in Toronto to get into the live debate. 

• The panelists were journalist Eleanor Wachtel, director of the Ontario Women's Teacher Associations Kay Sigurjonsson, University of Montreal business professor Francine Harel-Giasson and Le Devoir columnist Renee Rowan. 

• A theatre critic interviewed on CBC Television after the debate said Mulroney had the "best style," before labeling him "glib" and "superficial."  She said John Turner "tries too hard and looks like he doesn't expect anyone to believe him." Broadbent came across honestly, as "he wears the coat of his convictions."

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Aug. 15, 1984
Guest(s): Ed Broadbent, Brian Mulroney, John Turner
Anchor: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Bill Casey
Duration: 4:25

Last updated: March 30, 2012

Page consulted on March 27, 2013

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