With Quebec elections approaching, party leaders face off in the second debate

The second and final campaign debate in Quebec on Thursday saw the four candidates running to become the province’s next prime minister attack François Legault for not doing enough for the climate, healthcare and the French language.

With voting day less than two weeks away and Legault leading in the polls, tonight’s event was one of the parties’ last opportunities to get their messages across to voters.

Legault, leader of the Avenir Quebec Alliance, Dominique Englade of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Gabriel Nadu Dubois of Quebec Solidere, Party Québec leader Paul Saint-Pierre Blamondon and Eric Duhemé of the Quebec Conservative Party also argued about inflation, taxes, education, and questions of identity such as immigration and sovereignty.

Climate change

Legault’s party was criticized for not doing enough to tackle climate change during his first term, but during the debate he praised his team’s ability to build a green economy.

“The battle against climate change is not in you,” Schott Engled.

Nadeau Dubois, who had several direct exchanges with Legault, accused the outgoing prime minister of spreading fear about the Quebec Solidere environment plan, rather than suggesting his own viable plan.

“You can forgo the Halloween decorations. We have to stop scaring people. You should inspire Quebecers, and suggest solutions,” said a Quebec Solidere spokesperson.

“You are discouraging people, Mr. Lego.”

Legault, in turn, accused Nadio Dubois of proposing an unrealistic environmental plan that would derail the county’s economy. Throughout the campaign, Legault described Québec Solidaire’s proposal for a 15 percent tax on highly polluting cars as an “orange tax,” referring to the party’s colors.

“It’s a bit like magic,” Legault said. “It’s like we’re in a wonderland.”

Quebec aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, but the province missed the 20 percent reduction target set for 2020 and instead reached just six percent.

Quebec Solidere spokesperson, Gabriel Nadeau Dubois, spent much of the evening hanging out with François Legault, the outgoing prime minister. (Ryan Remours/The Canadian Press)

If elected, Quebec Solidere aims for a 55 percent reduction from 1990 levels within eight years. The Liberal Party of Quebec is proposing a 45 percent reduction target over the same period. Conservatives in Dhaimi chose not to set an emissions target, saying they preferred to prioritize “realistic” targets because previous governments had all failed to meet their targets.

Immigration, French, Sovereignty

St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the PQ party, said keeping the annual number of new immigrants in Quebec at 50,000 – rather than reducing it to 35,000 as his party suggests – would make French more vulnerable.

“Your planning leads to the greatest decline of French in Quebec history,” said Saint-Pierre of Blamondon, staring directly at the outgoing prime minister.

Saint-Pierre Blamondon also pounced on Legault when it came to the question of the sovereignty of Quebec. Near the end of the discussion, the mediator asked the outgoing prime minister if he would vote yes in a referendum.

Legault did not say how he would vote but said “Listen, we don’t want a referendum.” He described sovereignty as a “legitimate” project but not a priority for most Quebecers.

Blamondon accused the CAQ leader of trying to put an end to the sovereignty movement and said he could not be trusted by Quebecers who want the province to become a state.

“There are voters who trusted you in 2018 because they wanted to replace the Liberals and they are sovereigns,” Blamondon said. “I’m calling these people and saying that you can now vote by following your beliefs. And what François Legault is trying to do is take down a movement.”

man talking
Party Quebec leader Paul Saint-Pierre Blamondon said Quebecers who want the province to become a state cannot trust François Legault. (Paul Chiason/The Canadian Press)

Families waiting for daycare places

Legault boasted of his government’s decision to expand the kindergarten, but his opponents took the opportunity to criticize him for not taking up the long waiting list for public nurseries.

As a result of this backlog, Englade said, women in Quebec have taken a step back.

“There are women today who cannot return to the labor market because they do not have daycare services,” she said. “They want to do it, but they can’t do it.”

Both the Liberals and the PQ have promised to provide a subsidized daycare place for all children if they are elected.

A woman gesturing with her hands as she speaks.
PLQ leader Dominique Engled said women in Quebec have lost out under the CAQ government. (Paul Chiason/The Canadian Press)

privatization of health care

The CAQ leader also defended his government’s management of the health care system, saying he inherited a broken system from the previous Liberal government and that the pandemic had made matters worse.

Both the CAQ and Quebec’s governors have unveiled plans to expand private care in order to reduce the burden of a faltering public order.

Nadio Dubois said it was about reforming the current system, not privatizing it. He said many health care workers have left the public sector in recent years.

Dhaimi replied, “If socialism succeeds when it comes to health, we will know it.” “The truth is that we need to compete [between the private and public sectors]…a monopoly does not work whether it is public or private.”

Engled reiterated her party’s commitment to appointing a family doctor to every Quebecer, even though about 1.2 million people in the province do not currently have a doctor.

“It is our responsibility to find a way,” she said.

The debate took place at La Nouvelle Maison de Radio-Canada in downtown Montreal with CBC director Patrice Roy.

The leaders of the five parties are scheduled to appear live on Sunday night Everyone is talking about ita popular talk show on Radio Canada.

The elections will be held on 3 October. Quebec members can also cast their ballots in advance polls on Sundays and Mondays between 9:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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