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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Last debate, last chance?

On Thursday, Sept. 22, the leaders of Québec’s five main provincial political parties debated, together, one last time, in a formal televised event hosted by Radio-Canada.

Overall, the debate was fairly polite, and full of high-quality exchanges. As many voters are still undecided, this likely helped with their decision-making. The election will be held on Oct. 3, but advance polling begins as soon as Sept. 25.

Here’s our analysis of each leader’s performance (in order of each party’s number of MNAs at dissolution of the provincial government).

François Legault, Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ)

Premier Legault jumped in with renewed energy and seemed much more at ease than during the previous debate, at least during the first hour. Understanding Québéc solidaire is running an efficient campaign, he made Nadeau-Dubois his main target on many occasions. While some of his attacks might backfire, Legault scored points as his mastery of issues was better than the week before. Against Duhaime, he was wobbly at times during specific discussions on Québec City issues, but he kept his composure and delivered strong remarks on the pandemic.

Dominique Anglade, the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP)

Down in the polls, Anglade reiterated elements of her party’s platform in a way that was not very compelling. Most of her interventions fell flat, and other leaders frequently ignored her questions and did not use any of their precious time to rebut her. At times, it felt as though she could have been more aggressive and insist on getting answers. When she did, she proved to be more effective. Not a bad performance from her, but she needed much more, and her best moments came a bit late, after many viewers had tuned out.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec solidaire (QS)

Well served by the first theme of the debate (the environment), left-leaning Nadeau-Dubois continued to put forward ideas that would require nothing short of an economic revolution in Québec. Being the only leader to propose massive new consumption taxes, he got in heated exchanges with most other leaders, especially with Legault. Overall, he was less sharp than during the previous debate. His lines sounded rehearsed. Though his performance probably helped solidify his base, we’ll have to see if the debate helped him capture more reachable voters for his party.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Parti québécois (PQ)

While he started off with some momentum, the PQ leader at times seemed to be giving a performance for a college exhibition rather than a serious debate of provincial party leaders. Many viewers were probably surprised that St-Pierre Plamondon went so strong against tax cuts, and hardly spent any of his time making the case for Québec’s separation, which is the raison d’être of his party. His best moments focused on the future of French language in the province. On occasion, he disrupted the flow of the event by abruptly changing topic. That didn’t help.

Éric Duhaime, Parti conservateur du Québec (PCQ)

Alone on the right of the political spectrum, Duhaime spent half of the evening criticizing Legault, and the other half making the case for his own party’s platforms. Used to interviewing people, which he did a lot during his days as a radio show host, he was at his best when grilling the other leaders. Some of his incisive questions hit hard and he had a good evening overall, though he missed the mark a few times during the second hour.


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