Travers Debates 2017

The Travers Debates: Helping Finance the R. James Travers Fellowship

When the R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship was first created, a number of Jim’s friends and former colleagues wanted to help boost the fund that supports the annual $25,000 award. But how best to do it?

After much discussion over journalistically appropriate beverages, the group decided the best way to honour this outstanding journalist would be to hold a debate night. Jim Travers was always ready for a good give-and-take discussion, one that was civil and thoughtful. But Jim also had a wicked sense of humour, so it was important that the debate night offer both a serious element and a lighthearted one.

Out of that came the format for the four Travers Debates held to-date. As one of the main funding sources for the Fellowship, the Debates have raised $200,000.

For the serious element, we’ve been fortunate to have some informed and articulate debaters.

Under the watchful eye of debate moderator Bob Rae, they have delved into interesting topics: “Be it resolved that the future of the United States is brighter than that of Canada” (Dan Gardner v. Allan Gregg); “Be it resolved that Canada is a democracy in name only” (Andrew Coyne v. Peter Milliken); “Be it resolved that Canada has lost its way in the world” (Paul Wells v. Andrew Cohen); and “Be it resolved that democracy is facing serious risks with the decline of legacy news media” (Bruce Anderson v. Ed Greenspon).

All the debates have been recorded courtesy of CPAC, and are available from its video archives at

On the fun side, we have paired teams of two – one journalist and one MP (across party lines) – to tackle everything from whether Twitter means the end of political journalism in 140 characters, to why heckling is a parliamentary privilege and should be maintained. All parliamentary players and members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery have been good sports in debating these “causes.”

With Power & Politics host Rosie Barton as the emcee, the non-partisan debate evening has proven to be one of the liveliest events on the Ottawa political calendar, attracting sell-out crowds – an interesting mix of MPs, senators, journalists, communications professionals and government relations specialists.

We’re planning for another great evening on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 as we stage the Fifth Travers Debate at the Shaw Centre.

Keep your eye on our website for ticket and program information.

And follow us on Twitter @traversdebates