Who are the federal party leaders — and how did they get to this campaign?

What Canadians need to know about their party leaders and their plans for the country.

Canadians got a chance to meet a leader face to face

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May are seen in this composite photo. (CBC)

They've been part of the Canadian political scene for years. But when the election campaign began, many Canadians still didn't know all that much about some of the party leaders vying to be prime minister. 

With this in mind, CBC podcast, Front Burner, did a deep dive into each of the six main party leaders beginning back in  August, just before the campaign began. 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canadians are most familiar with Justin Trudeau, of course. Many would probably say he's a feminist, and that they know about his "sunny ways." They also know the controversies he has faced in his four years in power.

So is Trudeau running on his record or is it best to focus on the future? And why is he so prone to shooting himself in the foot?

Elected on a campaign of "sunny ways" and "real change," the expectations were high for Justin Trudeau when he came into power in 2015. But after a series of scandals, the public perception of Canada's prime minister might be shifting ahead of the fall election. Today, we continue our series on the federal party leaders by speaking to CBC News political reporter Aaron Wherry. He has a new book out called Promise and Peril: Justin Trudeau in Power. 28:22

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Even though he has been on the Canadian political scene for decades, many Canadians still say they don't know who Andrew Scheer is. He wasn't even the front-runner in the race to lead his Conservative Party.

So how did he wind up campaigning to be prime minister? 

Due to breaking news the day this episode ran, the Scheer profile starts about 4:08 into the podcast. 

He's called, "the smiling Stephen Harper," and he's known for his knack of bringing people together. But beyond his dimples, what do you really know about Andrew Scheer? Today, with the federal election fast approaching, we talk to Maclean's Ottawa bureau chief, John Geddes about the leader of the Conservative Party. We'll get insight into how he became such a unifier (hint: his favourite book is the self-help classic How to Win Friends and Influence People) and how that squares with his more divisive moments, such as his hardline stance on the United Nations migration pact. This is the first in a series of pre-election profiles we'll do about Canada's federal party leaders. 29:43

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

He made history when he was chosen to lead the NDP. And while many saw Jagmeet Singh's victory as a positive comment on race and religious acceptance in Canada, it also brought the ugly truths about hate and discrimination in this country to the surface.

It was nothing new for Singh. 

When Jagmeet Singh became the leader of the NDP in 2017, he was the first person of colour to lead a major Canadian political party. There was a great deal of excitement around Singh, who is known for his ability to communicate genuinely and effectively - as demonstrated last week in the aftermath of Justin Trudeau’s brownface controversy. But the NDP leader has also been criticized for being ill-prepared for the job.Today, as part of our federal election profile series, Front Burner digs into the life and political career of Jagmeet Singh with the CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau. 25:07

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

As the leader of what some Canadians might consider a fringe party, Elizabeth May has never received the same level of scrutiny as her fellow federal leaders. But she would argue that in her 13 years at the helm, she has grown the Greens to more than just a one-issue party. 

And though she is often seen as being an open book and very accessible, there is a big part of May's life that very few Canadians are aware of. 

With the next federal election just around the corner, and environmental issues top of mind for many Canadian voters, the Green Party is riding high on a rise in support. With this momentum comes a lot of pressure on the party’s long-time leader to deliver gains at the polls. Today, as part of our federal election profile series, we’re digging into the life and political legacy of Elizabeth May with Mia Rabson, an energy and environment reporter for The Canadian Press. 25:28

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet 

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He's definitely not as familiar outside of Quebec as he is in his home province. But the Bloc Québécois has been the official opposition in the past and so it's important to know what Yves-François Blanchet stands for and what he would fight for on behalf of Quebec.

If nothing else, listen to learn Blanchet's nickname — and how he earned it. 

The Bloc Québécois was once a powerful federal political party, forming the official opposition in 1993 and holding around fifty seats in the House in the mid to late 2000's. But the last two elections have nearly wiped the Bloc from existence, and the party has had a revolving door of leaders. This year, Yves-François Blanchet took over the reins. Today on Front Burner, as part of our series on the federal party leaders, we take a look at who Blanchet is and what he stands for with Martin Patriquin, a freelance political journalist based in Montreal. 21:28

People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier

People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

He has been a separatist, a Conservative cabinet minister, even ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party. So how did Maxime Bernier wind up leading a brand new party in this election campaign?

And when did some of his more controversial positions take hold? 

In the sixth and final Canadian leadership profile, Jayme Poisson speaks to the CBC’s Jonathan Montpetit about Maxime Bernier, the controversial head of the People’s Party of Canada. 28:05

Face to Face 

Once the campaign was underway, The National decided to try something a little different. The result was Face to Face — an opportunity for undecided Canadians to be in the driver's seat and spend five minutes with a leader. And the leaders were grilled. 

You can watch all four episodes below. 

Undecided voters go one-on-one with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau ahead of the 2019 federal election. 45:19
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer sits down one-on-one with undecided voters to talk about the issues that matter most to them. 45:15
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh sits down one-on-one with five undecided voters to talk about the issues that matter most to them. 45:20
Green Leader Elizabeth May sits down one-on-one with five undecided voters to talk about the issues that matter most to them. 45:19

By the way, Bernier was invited to take part in Face to Face but declined, citing scheduling issues. Blanchet was not invited as the Bloc Québécois is only running candidates in one province.