PQ leader Pauline Marois, Aug. 21, 2012, in Montreal.
Credits: MAXIME DELAND/QMI AGENCY
It’s debate season this week in Quebec.
It first started on Sunday night with French CBC’s and the other public network’s (Tele-Quebec) traditional debate with two moderators and four candidates. It was as boring and formal as all the federal leaders’ debates you watched, or tried to.
The moderators’ comments were too long, with pointlessly long questions. Each segment was too short and split evenly in four. Viewers were left with very little substance and too brief interaction among the candidates.
Then the main French TV station, Quebecor-owned TVA, proved to us once again — as if we needed to be reminded — that a private initiative, instead of a public one, could do twice as well with half the resources. With only one very discreet moderator and only two political leaders at a time, the three face-to-face battles between the three main leaders got nasty. It was based on the same model as the one used in the last presidential debates in France.
A real catfight. It was like filling a pool with Jell-O, or with creme-brulee if you prefer the French version, throwing in two seasoned politicians, having them jump on each other and filming for an hour before getting them out of there to declare a winner.
None of the three main leaders (Liberal Premier Jean Charest, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois and Coalition for the Future of Quebec leader Francois Legault) got completely knocked out in any on the three debates organized Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights but there was at least one close call.
For those in English Canada who are still concerned with the constitutional issue — although nobody here in La Belle Province truly cares about it anymore — Charest pounced on Marois in Monday night’s confrontation when he asked her the basic and ultra-simple question, answerable by a Yes or a No: Would the PQ hold a referendum during its mandate if elected?
Marois faltered and flailed like a drowning woman and didn’t answer. She couldn’t say no without the risk of alienating her base and she couldn’t say yes without turning off the soft nationalists that she desperately needs if she wants to win.
But the real good news for Quebecers was not that Marois lost face. The real improvement in Quebec politics is that I am one of the few, if not the only one, who noticed it and who writes about it, if only in English.
Nobody else, thank God, has paid any attention to it. Why? Because no one seems to give a damn about the next referendum. Nobody believes there will be another one within our lifetime no matter who wins Sept. 4.
Surprisingly also, education has not been a hot issue in the current campaign, after a heated spring of student protests and riots.
“It’s the economy, stupid” best sums up voters’ sentiment these days.
Now that Quebecers are debated-out and the summer campaign season is ending, the fall election will follow in couple of weeks with rude surprises awaiting for two of the three main parties at least.