Everything you need to know about the federal election and CBC News


We use this editor’s blog to explain our journalism and what’s happening at CBC News. You can find more blogs here. 

We’re in the home stretch of Canada’s 44th general election, with two more weeks left for voters to make up their minds on who will form the next federal government.

The stakes are high. There’s been, and will continue to be, plenty of information coming to Canadians in the days ahead.

We have been a trusted source for many years with the aim of helping you make sense of it all. 

CBC News is proud to be one of the production partners on Thursday night’s official English-language leaders’ debate, which we’re offering with translation in multiple languages. We anticipate plenty of interest in this debate. (Our call-out for the top concerns and topics you want the leaders to talk about netted more than 20,000 submissions in less than a week.) 

Advance polls open Sept. 10 through Sept. 13. The deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot from Elections Canada (or voting at an Elections Canada office) is Sept. 14. Here are all the ways you can vote in the 2021 election.

A person enters a polling station during the last federal election in Ottawa on Oct. 21, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

From Sept. 12-15, we bring back our popular Face to Face format, where each of the main party leaders faces questions from four undecided voters.

And of course we will have full election coverage and results on every platform on Monday, Sept. 20.

Between now and then, you can access a suite of tools and features to help you, from Vote Compass (which already has more than half a million responses) to our Platform Comparison feature to our ever-popular Poll Tracker:

And you can “Ask CBC News” anything about the election at ask@cbc.ca We will answer as many questions as we can in our programs and website.

Here’s everything else you need to know about CBC News and our federal election coverage:

Fairness and balance

As Canada’s public broadcaster, fair and balanced election coverage is the central promise of our public service mandate. We take this commitment so seriously that every program team is asked to track and measure its political coverage over the campaign.

We also hire an independent third party to analyze our coverage for balance. We are accountable to the CBC’s independent ombudsman, who critiques our work during the election in his blog and afterward in his reviews and annual report. Errors are publicly corrected and tracked here

Leaders’ debates

The English-language debate will air Thursday, Sept. 9 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET and the French-language debate will air Wednesday, Sept. 8, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Both will broadcast live from the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

The participants, based on criteria set by the independent Leaders’ Debates Commission, are Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. The English-language debate will be moderated by Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, with participation from CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, Melissa Ridgen of APTN News, Evan Solomon of CTV News and Mercedes Stephenson of Global News.

The English-language debate will also be available via translation in French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Punjabi, Plains Cree, Inuktitut, Dene, Tagalog, American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language. 

You can watch or listen live to the English-language debate on CBC-TV, CBC News Network, CBCNews.ca, the CBC News App, CBC Gem, CBC Radio One, via CBC Listen or on the CBC News YouTube channel.

(Wednesday’s French-language debate will be broadcast on Radio-Canada channels and CBC News Network beginning at 8 p.m. ET.)

Partisan advertising? On CBC Radio One?

Some CBC listeners are startled to hear partisan advertising pop up on their ad-free CBC Radio station during an election. Here’s the deal:

While our CRTC radio licence prohibits advertising, the Canada Elections Act takes precedence and mandates that all broadcasters must allow all parties to present their views to the public, including on CBC Radio.  

So we are obliged to make time available for purchase by all registered political parties, of which there are 22 this time around. Ads are run largely during local programming. Not all parties choose to advertise; some advertise only in select markets. As a result, listeners in a particular location may hear ads from just one party, while those in another location only hear ads from another party. 

Our CRTC radio licence prohibits advertising, but the Canada Elections Act takes precedence and mandates that all broadcasters must allow all parties to present their views to the public. (Eva Salinas/CBC)

We do two things to alert listeners to this situation. Recognizing that they are unfamiliar with hearing ads of any kind on CBC Radio, we precede every political ad with a disclaimer and follow it with another: “The preceding was a paid political advertisement.” We also ask our program hosts to inform listeners about why they are hearing political advertising and why they might only be hearing ads from one party.

You may also see or hear “free time” political messages on CBC Radio and TV. In this instance, the Broadcasting Arbitrator requires certain broadcasters, including us, to carry a limited number of messages from all registered political parties free of charge. Again, we endeavour to make clear to audiences what these messages and ads are all about.

Ask CBC News

The focus of our Ask CBC News unit is simple: there are no dumb questions. From how to vote for the first time to how to know if your mail-in ballot is safe to how much this pandemic election will cost, our journalists are looking into as many of your questions as we can, and sharing the answers on digital, TV and radio. Email your questions to ask@cbc.ca.   

Face to Face

Beginning Sunday, Rosemary Barton will moderate our Canada Votes: Face to Face special series in which four undecided voters will get one-on-one time with a main federal party leader to ask questions about the issues that matter the most to them. They will air each night Sept. 12-15 at 8 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and our digital platforms, with a half-hour version on The National each night and then repeated at 11:30 p.m. local time on CBC-TV.

News Network free preview

With two weeks left in this important campaign, the CBC and its partners are offering a free preview of CBC News Network for the month of September. Check with your cable provider or stream on CBC Gem, the CBC News app or here: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1940039747948

CBC News App

This week, a special Canada Votes 2021 section will be added to the CBC News app.

Election day, night and next morning

In a contest that polls suggest is very close — and with thousands of ballots expected to be cast by mail — election night may end with several seats undecided and without a clear outcome. Most mail-in ballots won’t be counted until after polls close, which could result in delayed reporting. Rest assured CBC News will stay with the story until all the results are known.

The Toronto broadcast set for CBC’s election night coverage is seen here on Oct. 22, 2019. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Our Canada Votes: Election Day coverage begins first thing on the morning of Sept. 20 across CBCNews.ca, World Report, The World This Hour and CBC News Network. Special coverage continues through the day leading to our afternoon and prime time schedule:

Television / Streaming Video:

  • 4-6:30 p.m. ET (1-3:30 p.m. PT): Canada Votes — the Power & Politics pre-show, with David Common

  • 6:30-7 p.m. (3:30-4 p.m. PT): Canada Votes — Countdown, with Rosemary Barton 

  • 7 p.m.-1 a.m. ET (4-10 p.m. PT): Canada Votes special coverage, with Rosemary Barton and team: Adrienne Arsenault, Andrew Chang, Ian Hanomansing, David Cochrane and reporters from across Canada. Featuring political insiders, the At Issue panel and special guests. An ASL broadcast of election night will also be available on CBC Gem.

  • 1 a.m. ET (10 p.m. PT): Canada Votes — Voter Voices, with David Common and Ginella Massa

  • 5 a.m. ET (2 a.m. PT): Canada Votes — Morning Live with Heather Hiscox

Radio / Streaming Audio:

Regular CBC politics programs:

Power & Politics on CBC News Network and CBC Gem: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/powerandpolitics

The House on CBC Radio One and extended podcast episodes on CBC Listen: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thehouse

Rosemary Barton Live on CBC News Network and CBC Gem: https://gem.cbc.ca/media/rosemary-barton-live/s01

Party Lines on CBC Podcasts: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/cbc-podcasts/381-radio-party-lines

At Issue on The National: https://www.cbc.ca/player/news/tv%20shows/the%20national/at%20issue and on CBC Podcasts: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/cbc-podcasts/170-cbc-news-at-issue

West of Centre with Kathleen Petty on CBC Podcasts https://www.cbc.ca/listen/cbc-podcasts/407-west-of-centre

Our promise

Throughout the election we are putting you, the voter, first. We root our coverage daily in the concerns of Canadians at the community level over any party’s campaign agenda that day. We work to hold candidates to account and deliver factual, fair, balanced information so you can make an informed choice. 

Sept. 20 is your chance to be heard. Your ballot matters. 

We will have fulfilled our public service mandate if CBC News, current affairs and our local programs from coast to coast to coast help you learn more about where each party stands and what the leaders have promised.

Read more at CBC.ca