A group of activists in Toronto delivered a petition with nearly 48,000 signatures to the CBC Friday morning, asking the broadcaster to host a federal leader's debate on climate change ahead of the October federal election.

The petition was organized by four advocacy groups: Leadnow.ca and North99, along with the climate-change-focused 350 Canada and OurTime, which recently made headlines with a campaign for a Canadian Green New Deal. In a statement, LeadNow said the CBC has a responsibility as a public broadcaster to "provide a platform about this unprecedented national emergency so voters can clearly see where leaders stand on climate and what they’re prepared to do about it.”

"We look to political leaders to lead on serious issues like climate change, but there’s so much misinformation and confusion,” said Amara Possian, Canada Campaigns Manager with 350.org. “A federal leaders’ debate focused on climate change and a made-in-Canada Green New Deal will give voters much-needed clarity on which parties have the best strategy to tackle the climate crisis head on.”

The final signature total was 47,449, said LeadNow.

The environment has emerged as the top election issue for Canadians, found a study released Thursday by the Digital Democracy Project.

In the statement, the advocacy groups pointed to wildfires in Western Canada, heat waves in the east and north, shorelines that are disappearing as sea levels rise and severe floods — all extreme events that are becoming more frequent due to the climate emergency.

CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said the public broadcaster recognizes how important climate change is, and that will be reflected in its election coverage.

"As I'm sure you are aware, CBC News has covered climate change extensively, and we will continue to do so," Thompson said in an emailed statement. "As to whether or not there will be a debate specifically about climate change, that question is best asked of the Leaders' Debates Commission."

The commission is an independent organization established by the federal government earlier this year to co-ordinate two leaders' debates before federal elections. The CBC is one of a group of media organizations appointed by the commission to produce and stream the debates, as part of the Canadian Debate Production Partnership.

A group of activists plan to deliver a petition with over 45,000 signatures to CBC headquarters in Toronto Friday, demanding the broadcaster hold a federal leaders' debate on the climate emergency. Story by @EmmaMci #cdnpoli

Jill Clark, a spokesperson for the commission, said the group has had discussions with several organizations that are interested in holding climate debates.

"We intend to stick to our mandate of producing two nationally televised and streamed debates, one in English, one in French that cover a variety of topics most important to Canadians," Clark said in an email.

"We believe that our debates don’t preclude any other debates from happening and that we're always prepared to continue discussions with these groups and others."

Cherry Tsoi, a campaigner with LeadNow, told National Observer that Thompson came outside to hand-receive the petition as a group of about 70 chanted and gave speeches outside CBC headquarters. The activists will deliver copies of the petition to CBC newsrooms across the country next week, she added.

"The election is coming up and this is going to be a major focus for us," Tsoi said. "Whoever we elect will have an irreversible impact on our climate."

On July 17, protesters organized by 350 Canada demonstrated outside CBC offices across the country to make a similar request. And before that, the group organized a 10,000-signature petition asking the commission to hold a climate debate.

The advocacy group also penned an open letter to the CBC, which has been signed by over 40 public figures, including former CBC staff, Indigenous leaders, academics, activists and writers. Margaret Atwood, environmental activist Naomi Klein and Life of Pi author Yann Martel are on the list.

Right now, there are two debates expected ahead of the federal election, which must happen on or before Oct. 21. An English debate is proposed for Oct. 7, with a French one proposed for Oct. 10. Neither date has been finalized, but the events would be held in the Ottawa area.

The non-profit GreenPAC has also organized 117 local, climate-focused candidates' debates in ridings across Canada through an initiative called 100 Debates on the Environment. Those forums will take place on Oct. 3 — they were originally set for Oct. 7 but had to be rescheduled after the debate commission decided its English event would be held the same day.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated as of 4:10 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2019 to include the final number of signatures on the petition, comments from LeadNow, comments from the Leaders' Debates Commission and information on local climate debates happening across Canada.

Yes, a properly conducted leadership debate should illuminate the attitudes and intentions of the leaders of parties. Whether or not those "illuminations" will actually be enacted by the subsequent victor/victorious(?) party(ies) is an entirely different kettle of fish.

More importantly the debate should be followed by a panel of analysts equipped to critique proposals, debunk "mistatements" and uncover the influences/influencers behind the varied candidate positions.

It is not really a matter of who "wins" the debate but whose statements are the most truthful, the most apposite and the most likely to represent achievable goals.

Absolutely! Two points:
1. Re: the Green New Deal: having the debate/s on CBC ensures the inclusion of ALL Canadians and increases their awareness of the need for them to carry out paradigm shifts in their own daily lives
2. Re: the "entirely different kettle of fish": making politicians ACT on their campaign promises is the RESPONSIBILITY of ALL Canadians, not just in election time.

You mean like Trudeau promising to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies during the 2015 election campaign. Or how about Trudeau promising to legislate UNDRIP if he is reelected in 2019? Or how about his PROMISE to keep climate change temperatures at or below 1.5C? My vote in October is Green because the NDP is not environmental friendly - v. Alberta and BC.

An additional thought, the debate need not be conducted in person. The leaders can be anywhere and broadcast in real time. The debate monitors can also ensure that candidates do not interrupt, or speak over one another but conduct themselves in the civilized, and decorous manner required of "real" debate. I.E. 1st) initial statements of positions - concise and on topic 2nd) Rebuttal arguments by opponents, equally concise
3rd) Final summations by each candidate restating original position and defending against rebuttals.

Ad hominem aspersions forbidden, disqualify speaker from further speech.

Last comment, I promise

All debaters given equal time.
Order of speaking for each segment to be determined by the blind drawing of numbers.

Seems like there is a dual goal here. One of climate education and the other of policy discussion. With regards to the emergency, debate doesn’t seem to be the right word to use. There is no debate, it is an emergency. That fact should be acknowledged by all parties up front.

I sort of wish that there were other examples out there of other countries that have attempted to have a national conversation on the emergency. Would be nice to have the benefit of any lessons learned.

Why is it so difficult for CBC to do this event that is of interest to humans in general and Canadian voters in particular? They seem to have an infinite time budget for any utterance by Mr. Trump.