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Live – Quebec election debate: Leaders face off in first debate


Leaders clash over tax cuts, the environment, family doctors and public safety.

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This is our live blog about the Quebec election debate on Thursday, Sept. 15. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Topic: Education
  • Moderator threatens to close Nadeau-Dubois’s microphone
  • Meanwhile, on Twitter, CAQ, QS candidates clash on private health care
  • Topic: Health promises
  • Topic: Tax cuts and austerity
  • Topic: Economy
  • Topic: Traffic
  • Topic: Public safety
  • Opinion: New parties would have been wise to join forces
  • Tonight’s debate will emphasize one-on-one confrontations
  • Of the five major parties, Liberals have the fewest candidates lined up
  • Each of the five party leaders faces a unique test in tonight’s debate
  • On debate day, poll shows dip in CAQ support
  • Ignored by organizers of French debates, Holness is taking part in a QCGN town hall tonight
  • Little talk about the poor, housing shortage in election campaign, anti-poverty group complains
  • Quebec leaders debate: Face à Face could prove to be make or break
  • What are the five major parties taking part in Quebec’s provincial election?
  • Election Guide: What you need to know about the campaign and voting
  • Sign up for our free Quebec election newsletter

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9:25 p.m.

Topic: Immigration

Legault says immigrants are an asset to Quebec.

But the duty of Quebec’s premier is to protect the French language and that’s why he wants to limit immigration and focus on attracting immigrants who can speak French, he said.

Nadeau-Dubois says QS wants to significantly boost immigration, at the same time as it spends massively on the francization of immigrants.

Anglade brings up controversial statements by Legault, who has linked immigration with violence and with threatening Quebec’s “national cohesion.”

“Every time you talk about immigration it’s in a negative way,” Anglade says.

She says immigrants have played a major role in the development of Quebec.

Legault changes the topic, accusing Anglade of not being a nationalist unlike some of her predecessors. He starts talking about former Liberal premier Robert Bourassa’s use of the notwithstanding clause.

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9:15 p.m.

Class photo

Clockwise from left: Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime, Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade, Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, and Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault before their debate on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Clockwise from left: Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime, Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade, Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, and Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault before their debate on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Photo by Agence QMI, Martin Chevalier /TVA

9:10 p.m.

Topic: Education

A lack of teachers, not enough classrooms, poor ventilation.

“Why are schools failing the test?” leaders are asked.

Anglade blamed a severe labour shortage that got worse under the CAQ.

Legault says he’s proud that his government increased teacher salaries, hired more professionals for students with special needs and boosted the amount of cash set aside to renovate and build schools.

He says education was his government’s priority.

Anglade shoots back: “If education was a priority you would never have kept Jean-François Roberge as education minister.”

St-Pierre Plamondon says the state of schools has deteriorated under the CAQ.

“That’s not true,” Legault says.

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9 p.m.

Moderator threatens to close Nadeau-Dubois’s microphone

The debate has gotten out of hand several times, with leaders speaking over one another.

At one point, Bruneau threatened to shut Nadeau-Dubois’s microphone.

“Mr. Nadeau-Dubois, we are going to turn off the microphone. I’m telling you, next time, it’s closed.”

The moderator is a bit like a conductor, swinging his arms as he tries to get some leaders to speak and others to pipe down.


8:55 p.m.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, CAQ, QS candidates clash on private health care

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8:55 p.m.

Topic: Pandemic

Bruneau asks Duhaime: If there’s another wave of COVID-19, what do you do?

“I wouldn’t infantilize them the way Mr. Legault did,” the Conservative leader said. “I would protect the vulnerable but I would allow people to live.”

Legault accuses Duhaime of trying to win votes by opposing restrictions and politicizing the pandemic.

Duhaime shoots back: show me a study that shows that curfews reduced COVID cases.

Legault counters that if people are at home they’re not in contact with others, reducing the chances of getting infected.

The CAQ leader accuses Duhaime of “not being in solidarity with seniors.”


8:45 p.m.

Topic: Health promises

Bruneau asks the leaders: “Does anyone believe health promises anymore?”

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Anglade and Legault clash over the number of Quebecers without family doctors.

The Liberal leader says the number of Quebecers without family doctors has soared under the CAQ.

Legault counters that the situation has improved since the Liberals were thrown out of power in 2018.

“We just lived through a pandemic,” the CAQ leader adds, suggesting that’s why the health network is suffering.

Nadeau-Dubois chimes in, saying Quebecers are “tired of debates over the number of family doctors.”

He says consecutive governments, whether Liberal, PQ or CAQ have failed to improve the situation.


8:40 p.m.

Topic: Tax cuts and austerity

Legault and Anglade are asked if their tax cuts will result in austerity and service cuts down the road.

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But the debate takes a turn and they don’t answer the question.

Legault boasts that Quebec is doing better than Ontario on several fronts, including employment.

Anglade isn’t impressed, saying under the CAQ, Quebec has created three times fewer jobs than Ontario did under Premier Doug Ford.

She says the CAQ is doing nothing to deal with a severe labour shortage that is affecting health care and education.


8:35 p.m.

Topic: Economy

St-Pierre Plamondon says the PQ would take Quebec’s surplus and send cheques to low-income families.

He says the PQ is the only party that would not cut taxes, because it wants to make sure public services don’t deteriorate.

Duhaime says his party would slash taxes more than any other party.

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Nadeau-Dubois accuses Duhaime of wanting to defund daycare centres.

Duhaime starts to answer but viewers can’t hear it because several other leaders also start speaking.


8:30 p.m.

Topic: Traffic

What do you tell Montrealers who are suffering in traffic?

St-Pierre Plamondon says Quebec must invest massively in public transit.

Legault says the PQ wants to put an extra tax on consumers to pay for public transit.

St-Pierre Plamondon accuses Legault of misstating the PQ’s policy. He says the PQ plan would tax oil companies.

“You don’t want to answer,” Legault charges.

“I answered three times,” St-Pierre Plamondon answers.


8:25 p.m.

Topic: Public safety

Bruneau says that some Montrealers are afraid to visit parks after recent shootings.

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Anglade says cities need more help and governments currently aren’t investing enough in crime prevention.

Legault is asked about a controversial statement he made last week, apparently linking immigrants with violence and extremism.

Legault denies he was making a link, saying he wants to protect the French language by choosing French-speaking immigrants.

Duhaime accuses Nadeau-Dubois of wanting to defund the police.

Nadeau-Dubois shoots back that Duhaime’s party “wants to put guns everywhere,” apparently referring to a Conservative candidate who supported arming teachers in schools.


8:20 p.m.

Topic: Third-link between Quebec City and Lévis

Both Legault and Duhaime support a third link connecting Quebec City and Lévis, crossing the St. Lawrence River.

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Bruneau asks them if that’s good for the environment, as critics say their projects would encourage car use.

Legault says the tunnel he’s proposing would help public transit because there would be reserved bus lanes.

He accuses Duhaime of wanting to disfigure by favouring a bridge that would run via Île-d’Orléans, east of Quebec City.

Duhaime shoots back that Legault cites studies that prove the tunnel is feasible but refuses to make them public.

Legault insists they are being updated and will be published at some point.


8:10 p.m.

Topic: The environment

Legault says Quebec has to balance the environment with the economy. But he says the CAQ is committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Nadeau-Dubois says Legault lacks ambition and he only wants to be the “less worse” polluter in North America.

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Anglade says Quebec should look to a new source of energy: green hydrogen.

Duhaime says the other parties aren’t ready to tell Quebecers what sacrifice they will have to make to reduce greenhouse gases. How many businesses will have to close, how many cars will have to be taken off the road, he asked.

St-Pierre Plamondon says Quebec must separate so it stops being part of Canada, denouncing the oil sands.

“If we are serious about the environment, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room: the fact that Quebec is part of Canada,” he said. “And so, that we send our money to the oil companies of Alberta.”

In a face-to-face confrontation, Anglade accuses Duhaime of favouring fossil fuels over the environment. “You want to bring us back to 1950,” she said.

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In response, Duhaime says fossil fuels will still be needed for decades.


7:55 p.m.

How old are the leaders?

One difference between this year’s debate and the 2018 debates: the average age of the leaders.

In the last election, the four leaders vying for votes in leader debates – Legault, Philip Couillard, Jean-François Lisée and Manon Massé – were in their mid-50s and early 60s. Average age: 59.

This year, five leaders will be sparring, four of whom will be in their first debate as leaders. Average age: 49.

Here are their ages:

  • François Leagult, 65.
  • Éric Duhaime, 53
  • Dominique Anglade, 48.
  • Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, 45.
  • Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, 32.
Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, left to right, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader Francois Legault and Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Masse pose for a picture before the start of the English language leader’s debate in Montreal on Monday September 17, 2018.
Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, left to right, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader Francois Legault and Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Masse pose for a picture before the start of the English language leader’s debate in Montreal on Monday September 17, 2018. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

7:50 p.m.

Opinion: New parties would have been wise to join forces

Had Colin Standish’s Canadian Party of Quebec or the Bloc Montréal led by Balarama Holness “joined forces, their prospects of at least electing someone to the National Assembly would be somewhat better.

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“Together, they represent about five per cent of the popular vote, a little more than what it took back in 1989 for the combined efforts of the Unity Party of off-islanders, or as they like to say, mainlanders, and the urban-centred Equality Party to elect four MNAs under the latter’s banner.”

Read the full opinion piece, by Howard Greenfield, a Montreal lawyer and a former president of the Equality Party.


7:30 p.m.

Four of five parties have supporters cheering on leaders

Outside TVA’s studios, four of the five parties had supporters in place to cheer on their leaders as they arrived.

Oddly, the Coalition Avenir Québec opted not to follow this custom. Instead, leader François Legault walked in without fanfare.

Colleague Philip Authier is at tonight’s debate. Expect his analysis later.

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7:20 p.m.

Tonight’s debate will emphasize one-on-one confrontations

Tonight’s TVA debate will be moderated by veteran broadcaster Pierre Bruneau.

Bruneau, who has been at TVA for 46 years, is retiring after anchoring the next work’s election night coverage on Oct. 3.

Face-à-Face Québec 2022 will use TVA’s tried-and-true format, which emphasizes one-on-one confrontations.

Thanks to the format and Bruneau’s skill at keeping things in check, viewers probably won’t suffer through the kind of cacophonous debates sometimes in federal elections.

The two-hour debate will be broken into three parts:

  • The environment, quality of life and the economy
  • Health, family and education
  • Immigration, language and identity

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TVA says “each theme will be divided into two segments. First, all the leaders will debate the issue and then two leaders will face off. At the end of the debate, each of the leaders will have one minute to make their closing argument directly to viewers.”

TVA, LCN and QUB Radio are set to carry the debate live. It will also be simulcast on the tvanouvelles.ca website and the TVA+ app.


7:15 p.m.

Of the five major parties, Liberals have the fewest candidates lined up

Things are not going well for Liberal recruiters.

Candidates have until Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. to submit their nomination papers.

There are 125 seats in the National Assembly.

As of this evening, only the Coalition Avenir Québec has a full slate in place.

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The Liberals are 24 candidates short, slightly behind the Parti Québécois, which is missing 21 hopefuls.

Here are the parties that have at least eight candidates:

  • Coalition Avenir Québec: 125
  • Québec solidaire: 124
  • Conservatives; 117
  • Parti Québecois: 104
  • Liberals: 101
  • Green Party of Québec: 50
  • Climat Québec: 35
  • Démocratie directe: 16
  • Parti marxiste-léniniste du Québec: 12
  • Canadian Party of Quebec: 11
  • Équipe autonomiste: 9
  • Bloc Montréal: 8
  • Parti 51: 5

See this page on the Elections Quebec site for the full list.


7 p.m.

Each of the five party leaders faces a unique test in tonight’s debate

Welcome to our live coverage of tonight’s Quebec election debate.

It’s a pivotal day in the campaign.

Voters are getting a chance to see leaders of the five main parties in head-to-head confrontations in the first of two French debates, starting at 8 p.m. There will be no English debate.

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TVA’s debate stage will be crowded, with five leaders making pitches.

Four are novices, taking part in their first debates as leaders. Two are fighting for their political lives and perhaps to save their parties — the Liberals and the Parti Québécois — from political oblivion.

Here’s a preview:

  • François Legault, who has four years of baggage as premier, will be the main target, defending his record and portraying himself as a champion of the French language who can guide the province through turbulent economic times.
  • Dominique Anglade of the Liberals has to convince skeptical francophone voters she’s a viable candidate for premier. At the moment, polls suggest the party could be reduced to a rump with a handful of non-francophone Montreal ridings.
  • Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, at 32 by far the youngest leader, will portray his Québec solidaire as the party of the future, one that has fresh ideas on the environment, housing, taxes and sovereignty.
  • Éric Duhaime of the Conservatives must show his party is about more than pandemic grievances. A smooth communicator, the former broadcaster has already turned a party that barely registered in past elections into a major force.
  • Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, who has never been elected to any political post apart from PQ leader, has to show that his last-place sovereignist party is still relevant after Legault stole its thunder by beefing up Bill 101 and targeting religious symbols. It could be reduced to one seat on Oct. 3.

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7 p.m.

On debate day, poll shows dip in CAQ support

Setting the stage for tonight’s debate is a new poll — the first major provincewide survey since the start of the campaign.

François Legault saw support drop, but not enough to lose a commanding lead that would give his party a big majority, according to a Léger poll conducted Sept. 6 to 12 for Québecor media outlets.

Mid-campaign, the incumbent premier’s popularity fell somewhat after weeks of attacks from rivals.

But the four other parties shared the spoils.

Here’s the breakdown, with a comparison with a Léger poll conducted in late August:

The debate could help firm up opinions for the 34 per cent of respondents who told Léger their voting intentions are not final.

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For reference, here are the results of the 2018 election — percentage of popular vote and seats won:

  • CAQ, 37.4%, 74
  • Liberals, 24.8%, 31
  • PQ, 17%, 10
  • QS, 16.1%, 10
  • Green Party of Quebec, 1.7%, 0
  • Conservatives, 1.5%, 0

6:55 p.m.

Ignored by organizers of French debates, Holness is taking part in a QCGN town hall tonight

Balarama Holness wasn’t invited to the two French debates and there will be no English debate.

But the Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents English-language community organizations, is holding a town hall tonight with the leader of the Bloc Montréal.

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The organization has previously held town halls with Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, Conservative Leader Éric Duhaime, and Colin Standish, leader of the Canadian Party of Quebec.

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6:30 p.m.

Quebec leaders debate: Face à Face could prove to be make or break

The leaders of Quebec’s main political parties will face off Thursday night in the first of two French-language election debates.

Read our full story.


6:30 p.m.

Little talk about the poor, housing shortage in election campaign, anti-poverty group complains

Tenants and low-income Quebecers are getting little attention from the province’s campaigning political parties, an anti-poverty group said today.

And a spokesperson for the Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté (CQSP) added that issuing single cheques to fight rising inflation does not attack the root causes of the problem.

Read our full story.


6:30 p.m.

What are the five major parties taking part in Quebec’s provincial election?

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Here’s a look at the five parties vying to form Quebec’s next government.

Read our full story.


6:30 p.m.

Election Guide: What you need to know about the campaign and voting

How do you check if you’re on the electoral list? Are you allowed to vote? When can ballots be cast?

Read our full story.


6:30 p.m.

Sign up for our free Quebec election newsletter

Follow all the action along Quebec’s 2022 provincial election campaign trail with coverage and analysis from the experts at the Montreal Gazette.

Delivered Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.

You can sign up here.


ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


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