The Liberal Party of Canada is choosing a new leader. The Party will hold its first leadership debate on Sunday, with nine candidates crowding the stage. This will limit the time for each candidate to approximately ten minutes in the two hour debate.
Justin Trudeau, the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is widely considered the front runner, with Martha Hall Findlay and Marc Garneau being the other household names among the candidates.
The remaining candidates are David Bertshi, an Ottawa lawyer and leadership candidate in 2011, Martin Cauchon, a former member of parliament (MP), Deborah Coyne, a Toronto lawyer, who ran in the 2006 election, Karen McKrimmon, a former Canadian Forces Lieutenant Colonel and first woman to command an Air Force Squadron, Joyce Murray a Liberal MP since 2008, and George Takach, a Toronto based technology lawyer.
The debate, which will be broadcast starting at 1 p.m. PST, will be moderated by Randy Boissonault. The format will be an opening and closing statement by each candidates, with 14 questions posed to the candidates by the moderator.
The Liberal Party is the oldest political party in Canada. Colloquially known as the grits, the party is centrist, leaning slightly to the left, putting it slightly to the left of the Conservative Party and to the right of the New Democrats.
The party has been struggling with its leaders since the departure of Jean Chretien. Paul Martin, Stephan Dion and Michael Ignatieff had difficulty connecting with Canadian voters. In the 2011 the party took a significant defeat and for the first time in its history moved to third party status. The New Democratic Party (NDP), with the capable leadership of Jack Layton, became the official opposition. After Jack Layton passed away, Thomas Mulcair took the helm of the NDP and became leader of the official opposition.
The debate today will be followed by four more debates in Winnipeg, Toronto, Halifax and Montreal leading up to April 14th, when the leader will be chosen.
Recently an internal dispute erupted over the voting rules.
Federal Liberal brass are being accused of subverting a leadership process that was supposed to transform the party from an elitist club into the country's most open political vehicle.
That's the claim of two leadership hopefuls in the first real dust-up of the contest.
Party officials are under fire for allowing candidates to treat their lists of supporters as private property.
The new "supporter" category was supposed to give anyone willing to affirm support for Liberal principles — not just dues-paying, card-carrying members — an equal say in choosing the next Liberal leader.
Internal politics aside, the Liberal Party is due for a generational change. There are several well qualified candidates among the potential leaders. While Justin Trudeau is considered the forerunner and media darling, will he pass the scrutiny of the public? The next few weeks will reveal the answer.