Maclean’s will be hosting the National Leaders Debate featuring the leaders of Canada’s major party leaders tonight at 8PM ET.
This event is notable as it is the only English-language debate featuring the leaders of the Conservative, New Democratic, Liberal and Green parties. The Conservatives have stated Stephen Harper will not take part in the network consortium debates in October, and Thomas Mulclair (NDP) has responded that he will not participate in any debate without Harper. Although Canada’s major parties will be taking part in the Globe and Mail and Munk debates, the Green Party has not been invited to participate. The date of tonight’s debate was decided in June, before the start date of the election campaign was known, so the timing is quite serendipitous.
All the questions for tonight’s debate will come from Maclean’s, and will not be shared with any the parties before the debate. Maclean’s has been inviting the audience to post questions they have for the party leaders on social media here.
Electoral contexts and new media
What has been the role of media in elections? How might televised debates influence campaign outcomes? In an interview with Maclean’s, Brian Mulroney credited his victory as Prime Minister to his performance in debates and thinks it continues to have an important influence, saying that Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley “made it to the premier’s position because of television debates. So I think that the television debates in the next election may turn out to be the most important since 1984.” (See Nexalogy’s analysis of the Alberta election here.)
Citizens and political parties are very active on digital “new media” arenas such as blogs, online journalism, and social media, and this can shape the content of more established platforms, such as televised debates.
Nexalogy has began to analyze the concerns being voiced by the public on social media for tonight’s National Leader Debate (#macdebate) and have captured “climate” as a prevailing theme.
Distribution of hashtags which co-occur with #macdebate between different topics suggests that climate is far and away the most important topic:
Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Québécois) is not participating in the debate tonight, and this may explain why Nexalogy has found that French language tweets associated with #macdebate number in the dozens rather than the hundreds, as opposed to English discussion which is already over 2000 tweets.
Analyzing the exchange between social media and televised debates
It will be interesting to see if debate moderator Paul Wells takes his cue from Facebook comments and steers the conversation more on climate, and green energy, or if he chooses to focus on different themes entirely. Social media data seems to suggest that this election will run primarily on environment and climate issues.
Nexalogy will be monitoring trends in the social media conversation for BuzzFeed. Specifically, we are keeping an eye on the relative importance of issues changes before, during, and after the debate, and how conversation around each leader and party progresses as a result of the debate.
Tonight’s debate will be broadcasted on City, OMNI 1 and OMNI 2, and CPAC and will be live streamed online on Rogers radio and television station websites, Macleans.ca, Facebook and YouTube. The debate will be translated into Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi on OMNI and will air in English and French on CPAC.
We will post a link to the article tomorrow, stay tuned!
Want to analyze your own hashtag? Install the NexaSearch app on Hootsuite to do so for free.
[Update] Link to BuzzFeed article.