Leaders put their best ideas forward during first Québec election debate
Updated: Sep 23, 2022
French station TVA broadcast the first true leaders’ debate of the 2022 Québec election campaign on Sept. 15. The debate featured the leaders from all five of Québec’s major political parties, pitting them against each other in a hybrid format.
Part of the event was a “classic” debate, involving all participants taking turns at speaking, and part featured head-to-head exchanges with two leaders facing off against one another.
The debate addressed three main themes: environment and the economy, healthcare and education, and identity and immigration.
Though the exercise was sometimes cacophonous, some interesting soundbites came out of it, and Quebecers hopefully now have a better idea of who they intend to vote for.
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)
As the leader of the governing party and incumbent premier, François Legault was attacked early and often. As he does at the National Assembly, Legault was content riding in the middle of the road, but that was a risk, and he sometimes appeared wobbly following some of the best arguments of his opponents.
Through thick and thin, he pursued his goal of protecting his current lead rather than going on the offensive. Overall, he might have been too conservative in his approach. With all the election promises that the CAQ has made so far, he could have been bolder and more assertive. His lines on the pandemic and defence of his government’s COVID-19 response were passionate, and probably his best moments.
Dominique Anglade, the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP)
Though in a rough spot in recent polls, the Liberal leader came out strong and poised in the first 15 minutes. Her tone was good, and she was able to push some strong arguments. Unfortunately, she sometimes lost herself in promoting some pet issues (green hydrogen, right to work from home), which are not immediate political priorities for the average voter. She was also a bit theatrical and often forgot to smile. She was mainly on the attack but was ignored during some of the exchanges.
On the few occasions she brought up her personal story, she connected well. As her performance got better as time passed, she must hope voters watched the whole debate and did not doze off. Her best moments were on education, where she pinned both Legault and Duhaime.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec solidaire (QS)
On the left of the political spectrum, Nadeau-Dubois deployed a clever strategy to bundle multiple leaders together and position himself as the unique alternative. He was effective in the first hour of the debate and better as the game went on. Nadeau-Dubois had some trouble with time management, and quite a few times missed his punch because of that. He was about the only one to mention the names of some of his candidates. Some good points on the environment, as he probably secured some votes from left-leaning voters of the QLP. His lines criticizing Anglade as being like past liberal leaders were mostly effective.
Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Parti québécois (PQ)
St-Pierre Plamondon was ill-served by the promotion of his main idea, Québec separation. This pretty much destroyed his chances to look like the winner. Maybe he made some gains, but it will surely be much too little to make a significant difference. He could not escape being marginalized in some parts of the event and was mostly absent for long minutes at times. His best moments were on Québec's identity and freedom of speech on university campuses.
Éric Duhaime, Parti conservateur du Québec (PCQ)
A good debater, Duhaime was not nervous for a second, though it was his first debate as party leader. All evening long, he fought on two fronts, trying to woo voters from the CAQ and QLP. On occasion, he acted as an attack dog, which probably served him well with his electoral base. At times, he pivoted his focus on issues that matter in and around Québec City, the region where he is running himself, and where he hopes to make the most gains. Overall, he looked good, but could not control his temper on a few occasions. There is a line between passionate and coming out too strong. Duhaime stepped on that line during a few one-on-one segments.