Raymond Bachand, Pierre Moreau and Philippe Couillard.
Credits: JOEL LEMAY/QMI AGENCY
In the third of five leadership debates - the only one in English - the candidates hoping to lead the largest federalist party in Quebec's legislature agreed to protect anglophone rights in Quebec and co-operate with the federal government.
Their stances on the two issues didn't differ greatly, however, during Saturday's debate at Montreal's English-language Concordia University.
Former Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand told the audience anglophones in Quebec "are under attack" with regards to the policies of the governing separatist Parti Quebecois, which replaced the Liberals after the September election.
Bachand pledged to maintain the "quality and quantity" of English-language representation in the legislature and to push for more anglophones in the civil service, which is currently dominated by the francophone majority.
He also said he would create a cabinet minister for anglophones- a move the other two candidates dismissed.
Regarding federalism, Bachand said he was ready to work with the federal government and pointed to several issues where Quebec and the feds worked together successfully, such as bringing Formula One racing back to Montreal and funding Bombardier's CSeries airliner project.
Former Quebec health minister Philippe Couillard told the audience that "Anglo issues are Quebec issues" and argued that a minister dedicated for English-speaking people "divides the province along
Couillard said after the debate that he welcomed the possibility of the English-speaking community growing in Quebec.
"I envy young anglophones who are fluently bilingual compared to the situation in (the francophone community) where we don't have enough bilingual kids," he said.
Couillard told the audience that he is a committed federalist.
"You can't sit on the fence," he said. "I am a federalist not because I think we can get more money from Canada, but because I share its values."
Former Quebec transport minister Pierre Moreau said during the debate he wants the percentage of anglophones in the province's civil service to reflect the province's demographics.
He denied after the debate that it would be a difficult policy to institute.
Moreau maintained he was an ardent federalist, even
though he isn't content with the current federal government.
"When you're not happy with the government, you don't change countries," he said. "You change the government."
The next Liberal leader will be chosen in March.