Federal leaders set to face off in debate tonight

Maclean’s event to focus on economy plus energy, environment, democracy security.

TORONTO — Canada’s four federal party leaders will go head to head tonight as they face off in the first election debate run by Maclean’s magazine.

The economy is expected to be front and centre, as it has dominated the first few days of the campaign, but the debate will also touch on energy, the environment, democracy, foreign policy and security.

Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green party Leader Elizabeth May hunkered down Aug. 5 to prepare for the debate, which runs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. eastern daylight time.

Maclean’s is keeping the actual format under wraps, but it is said to include individual question-and-answer periods between the leaders and political editor Paul Wells, plus free discussion and final statements.

The questions will be drafted by the magazine and won’t be distributed beforehand. The speaking order was decided in a draw, which was also kept confidential.

Observers expect Harper, as prime minister, to be the target of most of the debate attacks, but the Conservatives say he is ready.

Many eyes will be on Mulcair, as a much-lauded debater, while Trudeau is the greenest of the bunch – May having faced Harper in an election debate in 2008.

The Toronto debate is to air on the City-TV network, Omni stations and CPAC, as well as a chain of AM radio stations. It is to be streamed live across various Rogers-owned websites, on Facebook and YouTube.

Leaders have been asked to keep their answers short and limit their closing statements to two minutes or less.

Coinciding with the first debate is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) launch of its small business election platform highlighting the top election priorities for Canada’s entrepreneurs.

CFIB has six priorities: pensions/retirement, taxes, red tape reduction, labour shortages, the Canada Revenue Agency and government spending.

Small business owners are looking to all parties to reject mandatory CPP/QPP hikes, enhance the lifetime capital gains exemption, control public sector spending and a reduce the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%.

They also want to replace the Temporary Foreign Worker Program with an Introduction to Canada Visa, and enhancing training programs to address the needs of small business owners.

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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