The numbers are in — and millions watched the Maclean’s debate

Audience for first leaders debate of federal campaign season reaches 4.3 million
Paul Wells at rehersal on August 5th for the National Leaders Debate. Photograph by Dillan Cools.
Canada's Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (2nd L), Green Party leader Elizabeth May, New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair (2nd R) and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) await moderator Paul Wells (L), political editor of Maclean's ahead of the Maclean's National Leaders debate in Toronto, August 6, 2015. Canadians go to the polls in a national election on October 19, 2015.  Mark Blinch/Reuters
Mark Blinch/Reuters

Who wants to watch our federal leaders go head to head in the middle of summer, on the same night Donald Trump takes the stage at the U.S. Republican leaders debate, and with Canada’s federal election still two and a half months away?

Millions of Canadians, it turns out: A total audience of 4.3 million tuned in for the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate last Thursday, Aug. 6, broadcast live on City TV, OMNI Television and CPAC, and streamed live and in video replays on macleans.ca and across the web.

Early into a lengthy campaign prior to the Canadian federal election Oct. 19, Maclean’s hosted the first leaders debate of the campaign season. More than 3.8 million viewers watched some of the televised debate, with an average audience of 1.5 million. Online views totalled nearly nearly half a million: The debate was streamed live 278,000 times on Macleans.ca, YouTube, Facebook or OMNI websites, in one of six available languages—English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi and Italian—while total video replays had reached 200,000 less than a week after the debate.

“It shows just how engaged Canadians already are with this campaign that a mid-summer debate had people watching in such huge numbers, and had them so active on social media,” said Maclean’s editor Mark Stevenson.

Moderated by Maclean’s political editor Paul Wells, the lively two-hour discussion included issues ranging from the economy and the environment to foreign policy and the state of Canada’s democracy. As of yet, it’s the only debate that will feature leaders from four major national parties. The inclusion of Green Party leader Elizabeth May marked the first national leaders debate in which May was invited to participate since 2008.

On Twitter, #macdebate became the No. 1 trending topic across Canada, with the conversation about the debate exceeding 2,200 tweets per minute during its peak. People were discussing the debate on Twitter from every continent on the planet, except for Antarctica. The Maclean’s Facebook page drew more than 110,000 votes in live polling during the debate, not to mention tens of thousands of viewer comments.

The next national leaders debate will take place Sept. 17, hosted by the Globe and Mail in partnership with Google Canada and CPAC.

For more information on the Maclean’s debate or where federal parties stand on the issues, check out our tablet-exclusive official program and the online Maclean’s election issues primer.