On April 7, Quebecers will have to choose: they can go backwards, or they can go backwards faster. At least that was the impression gathered from Thursday night’s leaders’ debate.
As with every other debate ever, each party claimed that they best represented the needs of Quebecers, they claimed that they could create the most jobs, and each promised to serve the citizens with integrity. But when it comes to the real issues that divide them, voters are left with downright uninspiring choices.
Philippe Couillard, whose posture was stiff and his body language disengaged, presented his ideas without much enthusiasm during the four-way battle royale. His plans were all ones voters had heard before from previous Liberal leaders, there was not much new to be learned. On the economic side, his policies were the most fiscally responsible without being too conservative for the taste of Quebecers. And yet, successive governments have shown that this balance is always harder to accomplish in practice. He was very reserved during the debate, which is normal for the front runner since he had the most to lose. With recent polls showing the Liberals three points ahead of the PQ, his goal was just to stay on message and not cause himself necessary damage. Still, there was nothing in his performance to inspire undecided voters, let alone his own supporters. When it comes to Couillard, one has to wonder if he has the will to face the problems that would confront him as premier.
Pauline Marois likely hurt her image with moderate voters by lashing out at her opponents in an aggressive manner during the whole length of the debate, the single benefit of this being the arousal of her more activist base. Instead of being a cool collected premier oozing confidence over her record, she appeared impatient and actually offended that she had to be put through the circus of a public debate. Her answers were disconcerting on everything from the economy to the Charter of Values. On a referendum, she tried to appeal to both pro-Charter federalists and hardcore separatists by saying that there will absolutely NOT be a referendum if she wins another mandate… unless Quebecers are ready for one. Either way, she promises to put out a government white paper on the issue, which means the road to a national crisis would surely materialize soon enough. The debate showed that the PQ is overly concerned with identity issues, while their plan for the economy is as lacking as her financial record over the last eighteen months.
François Legault talked a lot about courage, but showed none. His most appealing positions were to abolish Quebec’s school boards and lower taxes, but these are the same promises he held in 2012. His main objective at the debate was to attack Premier Marois and get under her skin, which he did in abundance. And yet, his manner was cool and collected, almost uncaring. He had the least to lose, and he knew that it gave him room to maneuver. However, his attack from the right likely helped Couillard more than anything, who was able to watch Marois get taken down without much blood on his own hands.
Françoise David did a good job of holding her own during most of the debate, fending off Marois’ offer to join the PQ so that they could build a coalition of separatists across the political spectrum. ‘No’, David said, because Québec Solidaire is a party about more separatism. And yet her vision for the future of Quebec is utopic. Her goal is to build a nation where redistribution of wealth can heal the economy and all of our energy and jobs will come from constructing wind turbines. It’s not a message that resonates with many down-to-earth Quebecers. In addition, her outright refusal to answer a question posed in English at the post-debate press conference — this despite her being quite fluent — will dampen her popularity with leftist Anglos who helped QS reach double-digits in recent polls.
The leaders will meet again this Thursday for a debate on TVA. Would it be unfair to expect real solutions to Quebec’s dire problems?
Original article posted HERE