Who won the Quebec leaders' debate?
Published Monday, August 20, 2012 8:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 20, 2012 9:17AM EDT
The morning after the only debate featuring all four candidates vying to be the next premier of Quebec, an analyst says the question of who won the war of words has a simple answer: no one.
The current premier, Liberal leader Jean Charest shared the stage in downtown Montreal with Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, Coalition Avenir Quebec party leader Francois Legault and co-spokesperson for Quebec solidaire Francoise David Sunday night, in a two-hour debate focused on the economy, governance, social policy, and provincial identity.
Commenting on the French-language debate from Montreal Monday morning, McGill political scientist Antonia Maioni said the exchange was "lively, very respectful in many ways, but there was no clear winner.
"All four did very well," Maioni told CTV's Canada AM, noting that Charest was able to deflect some of the harshest criticism directed his way.
"He was able to get away from the corruption, at least in terms of this debate," she said.
Many pundits singled out David's performance Monday night, although Maioni suggested there was no “knock-out punch” that would alter the trends so far in the campaign.
After nine years in the premier's office, Charest's Liberals are trailing the PQ in the polls.
With her chance to be elected premier just two weeks away, Marois steered clear of her party's plans to seek Quebec independence, opting instead to preview the fight she'd bring to the table with Ottawa.
"I will never let Stephen Harper choose for us," Marois said.
"I won't get on my knees before Ottawa like Charest does. And I won't renounce the fight, like Legault."
For his part, Charest used the platform to cast doubt on the veracity of his rivals' independence polices, directing some of his most pointed remarks at the former PQ minister who now leads the CAQ.
"For 40 years of your life you weren't just an ordinary sovereigntist... you were the most aggressive of the group," Charest said to Legault. "For 40 years you were a sovereigntist. Now for four seconds, you change your mind."
David seized her one chance to appeal to a broad television audience -- the Quebec solidaire has not been invited to participate in the three back-to-back TV debates starting Monday night -- appealing to voters with her party's approach to nationalism, social justice and the environment.
David was also the only one of the leaders sporting the red-square lapel pin symbolic of the province's student protest movement.
Many had expected the months of sometimes violent protests to shape the campaign, but Maioni said the fact the issue went practically untouched Sunday night means it's likely "not going to play in the same way that many might have thought."
In an unusual format, the leaders are staging four consecutive nights of debates. After Sunday's all-party debate, just Charest and Marois square off tonight. Then it's Charest and Legault on Tuesday, before the final one-on-one debate Wednesday night between former cabinet colleagues Legault and Marois.
Voters head to the polls across Quebec on Sept. 4.