Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault delivers remarks during a luncheon with supporters in Laval, Que., on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Quebec election: Leaders go 'head-to-head' during first election debate tonight
Published 11:34 PDT, Thu September 15, 2022
The first of two French-language leaders debates during the Quebec election campaign takes place in Montreal Thursday night, and four of the five participants are new to the game.
Polls have shown the Coalition Avenir Québec with a sizable lead over its four main opponents ahead of the so-called "head-to-head" debate on TVA network, which will pit one leader directly against another.
CAQ Leader François Legault, the premier and only participant who has debated before as a provincial party leader, told reporters this week he realizes he'll be the main target.
“I expect the four leaders to attack me; it's a bit normal, when you look at the polls," Legault said Tuesday. "So we try to predict these attacks, predict responses."
Organizers say the debate will be split into three sections: the environment, quality of life and the economy; health, family and education; and immigration, language and identity.
In the 2018 election, there were only four parties involved in the head-to-head debate as the Conservative Party of Quebec held no seats at the time and wasn't invited. Thursday's debate will feature Legault, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, Québec solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon and Conservative Leader Éric Duhaime.
"It will be the first time we will be five and it's an additional challenge because it gives less time to each leader to assert themselves," Duhaime said Wednesday, adding that he's very confident going in.
Nadeau-Dubois, whom Legault has singled out several times during partisan speeches in recent days, said he'll take the exercise seriously but also wants to have fun. "It's well known that the debates are an important moment for any political campaign," Nadeau-Dubois said.
Speaking this week in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., 630 kilometres northwest of Montreal, Nadeau-Dubois said the debate will also be important for voters. Many have come to him on the campaign trail unsure of who to vote for, he said, adding that Thursday's contest will be a chance to crystallize that choice.
"I want to have a debate with my colleagues from the other political parties because we have tough questions to answer for the future of Quebec," Nadeau-Dubois said.
The debate comes as a Léger poll for Quebecor media published Thursday shows a slight drop in support for the CAQ, down four points to 38 per cent. They are followed by the Liberals at 18 per cent, Québec solidaire at 17 and the Conservatives at 15 per cent. The PQ trails the pack at 11 per cent.
The online survey of 3,100 Quebecers aged 18 and older between Sept. 6 and 12, cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.
Anglade, whose party is struggling in its Montreal-area strongholds, according to polls, told reporters this week the debate will allow Quebecers a chance to discover the leaders.
"It is an opportunity to show the real differences in the type of Quebec we want," she told Montreal's CJAD 800 radio station on Wednesday.
She said it's a chance to let people know about her values and what she cares about. "It's exciting because it gets to the fundamentals of why you are in politics," she said.
Legault said he'll take time to rest up ahead of Thursday night, where he will be on the defensive for the first time as the incumbent premier.
“There is a certain stress, I will not hide it from you, attached to that," Legault said.
A second French debate, on Radio-Canada, will take place on Sept. 22.
Unlike in 2018, there will be no English-language debate this election campaign.
– Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press