At Issue: The debate over debates

The next federal election is just months away, so The National's At Issue panel on CBC weighed in on how many debates there should be, what format they should take and who should be in them.

Recent reports suggest some parties could be open to more federal election debates

Canada's next federal election is coming, so The National's At Issue panel weighed in on the topic of leaders' debates.

Peter Mansbridge, CBC's host of the panel, was joined by regulars Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hébert and Bruce Anderson for a discussion on how many leaders' debates should there be, what format should they take and who should be allowed to participate.

In recent federal election campaigns, there has been one debate in English and one in French, but there are no firm rules as the format and timing are negotiated separately each time by the parties and the broadcasters. However, some recent media stories have suggested the Conservatives and NDP might be in favour of adding more debates.

Pollster Bruce Anderson of Abacus Data thinks the NDP may want additional debates to display more of leader Thomas Mulcair. He also believes the Conservatives think holding more will take Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau off the campaign trail for additional days, but he doesn't think the Conservatives will ultimately go for it, because adding debates opens incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper up to more risk. 

Postmedia/National Post columnist Andrew Coyne thinks the public wins if there are more debates.

"A lot of the ills of the debates that we have now is that we only have the one [in each official language], so everyone is absolutely wired," he said. "The stakes are so enormous, the press treats it like a prize fight. There is very little opportunity to get any kind of depth."

Watch the full segment above, and find more stories and features from The National here.