The top conversation item on Facebook during the Munk debate on foreign policy was an exchange between Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on revoking Canadian citizenship for convicted terrorists.

Zakaria Amara, the convicted mastermind of a plot to bomb Parliament and buildings in Toronto, last week became the first person to have his citizenship revoked under Bill-24.

During Monday night’s Munk debate, Harper confronted Trudeau on his opposition to the move.

“Why would we not revoke the citizenship of people convicted of terrorist offences against this country?” Harper asked.

Trudeau said revoking citizenship affects every Canadian.

“A Canadian, is a Canadian, is a Canadian. You devalue the citizenship of every Canadian in this place and in this country when you break down and make it conditional for anyone,” he said.

According to Facebook, that exchange sparked more discussions on the social-media site than any other moment of the debate. The second most active moment was during a discussion of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Top Issues Discussed During Debate:

  1. Military
  2. Refugee
  3. Terrorism
  4. Climate Change
  5. Arctic Sovereignty

Earlier, Facebook released “heat maps” showing the concentration of discussion about certain election-related topics on the social media site.

The discussion heat maps reveal that the specific topic of “foreign aid” is being hotly discussed in Quebec. It’s not clear why, but it’s interesting, the head of public policy for Facebook Canada said.

Foreign aid graphic

“It suggests that Quebecers are clearly having conversations about foreign policy that might be different from the rest of Canada and one of the key differences is this question about foreign aid,” Kevin Chan said.

The heat maps measured discussion about certain topics in proportion to the overall volume of conversation on those topics.


The issue of climate change has also been hotly discussed in almost every riding across Alberta, as well as many parts of Saskatchewan, and in ridings in northern British Columbia.

The concerns about climate change may have been prompted by the devastating droughts that affected Canada’s West this year, as well as the dozens of forest fires that hit B.C. in August.

Climate change heat map

According to the latest data, the Canadian economy continues to be the most-discussed election issue on Facebook, as it has been since the beginning of this campaign. But foreign policy has also been a hot topic as well.

 Facebook is able to measure user engagement on different topics by tracking specific keywords. For example, words such as “Syria,” “Russia,” “trade,” and “immigrants” are tracked to gauge engagement on foreign policy when they appear alongside the name of a political party, party leader or the word “election.”

Foreign policy’s peak

The topic of foreign policy hit a peak in early September, which is about the time that a young Syrian boy washed up on the shores of Turkey, sparking nationwide conversations about Canada’s refugee policy.

Interest in foreign policy on Facebook fell in the weeks afterward, but hit another spike around Sept. 10, when discussions about the economy and the environment also spiked.

While it’s not possible to know why there are spikes in certain keywords, Chan notes there was one particular Facebook post that went viral around Sept. 10.

The public post was written by an oilfields worker-turned-truck driver who wanted to offer his support of temporary foreign workers after noticing a Tim Hortons that was severely short-staffed.

Chan says the post “got incredible traction” and sparked a lot of conversation after being shared more than 70,000 times.

“It just shows there are real people having spontaneous conversations about issues that matter to them, and this is a great example of that,” he said.