Party leaders tested in first televised election showdown
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
On Sunday, Sept. 4, Québec’s five major political party leaders sat down with a panel of Radio-Canada journalists for their first televised showdown of the 2022 election campaign. This was not a traditional debate between the leaders, but rather a series of back-to-back in-depth interviews, with each leader taking a turn in the hot seat.
Most election watchers expected a long, boring evening with leaders simply repeating their key campaign messages, attacking their opponents, and taking no chances. As a pleasant surprise, the novelty of the format and everyone’s commendable level of preparation resulted in some interesting exchanges.
Here are some takeaways from David Boudeweel-Lefebvre, CEO of Boudeweel Public Affairs, informed by his 20+ years of experience as a former political aide and government relations specialist:
I actually found the event extremely captivating, with the party leaders all delivering fairly impressive performances, each in their own way. It was refreshing to hear thoughtful answers to good questions, without everyone shouting at each other like in traditional debates. This allowed the audience to actually learn more about the key issues at stake during this election, and compare policy proposals. Even for someone like me who eats and breathes Québec politics on a day-to-day basis, it was enlightening. Initially, I thought I would rank how well everyone performed, but the difference in performance between everyone was so minor. They were all pretty good. I think the federal debate consortium should take a cue from what Québec has done here and incorporate this kind of event into their programming, in addition to their traditional debates. As for an analysis of the issues discussed, a few key themes emerged: Inflation and purchasing power, the environment, the future of the French language and public finances continue to be the central concerns of this election. This event also touched on the tone of each of the campaigns and the threats made against some candidates.
Anyone interested in watching the complete Radio-Canada event (in French) can access a free recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY-8W2GNVcs
The real minefield still lies ahead for the party leaders, with two traditional televised debates, both in French, planned for later points in the election campaign: A TVA “Face-à-Face” debate is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 15 and a Radio-Canada debate will take place a week later, on Sept. 22. Plans for a televised English debate were cancelled after the outgoing premier, François Legault, and Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon both turned down invitations to participate.