Skip to main content

A political debate never really is about the finer issues or the subtleties of public policy. For better or for worse, it boils down to a simple question: Who won?

Québec Solidaire Leader Françoise David stood out, just as she did in the 2012 debate, as a serene and likeable politician in what started as a cacophonic boxing match on the Quebec economy. But as this left-wing politician can only chip away at the Parti Québécois's electorate in a small number of Montreal ridings, her performance matters little for the outcome of the election.

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault was true to form, but he didn't deliver the knock-out punch that would have allowed his party to bounce back from its third and increasingly distant place in the opinion polls. Since Pierre Karl Péladeau entered politics with his fist raised for an independent Quebec, this has been a two-party race between the traditional federalist and sovereigntist parties.

Story continues below advertisement

And in this duel that set Premier Pauline Marois against Philippe Couillard, it is the Liberal Leader that came out as the winner. In his first televised debate, Mr. Couillard, whose electric blue tie matched his Quebec flag pin, came across as authoritative, as premier material – even daring to correct presenter Anne-Marie Dussault on facts.

Mr. Couillard should have been the target of most attacks, as the latest CROP-La Presse poll put the Liberal Party slightly ahead of the PQ. But it was he and his fellow opposition party leaders that put Ms. Marois on the ropes and put the Premier on the defensive. They attacked her on promoting the exploitation of petroleum on Anticosti Island, where no major oil company has ventured thus far, on the PQ's lacklustre job creation, and on the referendum – Ms. Marois's Achilles heel.

Predictably, Mr. Couillard outdid himself as he raised the spectre of a referendum so often that observers lost count of how many times he used the word, as he pushed his economy-first agenda.

But Ms. Marois, in her sober grey tweed suit, was unable to respond convincingly to the question that is on everybody's mind. Will there or will there not be referendum on Quebec's independence if the PQ is re-elected. Ms. Marois's answer, "there will be no referendum if Quebeckers don't want one," remains desperately short on clarity. Everybody knows that if the PQ thinks it has any chance of winning a referendum, of reaching the promised land, it would find a way to make it happen the same way it manufactured an identity crisis to bring forward a charter of Quebec values in a cynical bid to win a majority. This, notwithstanding the fact that two-thirds of Quebeckers don't want another divisive debate on nationhood.

Ms. Marois was unable to alter the course the election has taken ever since Mr. Péladeau announced his candidacy.

There are still three weeks to go until Quebeckers go to the polls, an eternity in politics. Moreover, debates rarely change the course of an election – and this one was certainly no exception, with its political bickering that is unpalatable to most Quebeckers.

But at the midpoint of the campaign, the PQ government that gambled it would win a majority is now facing an uphill battle.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter