Liveblogging the Quebec leaders’ debate

By Martin Patriquin and Philippe Gohier


From the comfort of their respective living rooms, Martin Patriquin and Philippe Gohier liveblogged last night’s leaders’ debate.

8:03 p.m. — Philippe:
Mario Dumont’s going to have a really hard time arguing that “after a year and a half, we’re ready.” If anything, they’ve never looked less ready.

8:05 p.m. — Martin:
Marois didn’t even wait past the usual niceties of the opening speeches to go after Charest.

8:07 p.m. — Martin:
Interesting tack, and what both the PQ and the ADQ needs to do: Get the vote
out. Voters are Charest’s enemy at this point. He’s going to win or lose thanks to the veracity of Lib voters.

8:09 p.m. — Martin:

Marois just said that she agrees with the ADQ. Kiss of death for Mario.
Means the PQ doesn’t really care about the ADQ any longer.

8:11 p.m. — Philippe:
It’s odd that health is figuring so prominently in an election putatively about the economy.

8:12 p.m. — Philippe:
Wow, aggressive move by Charest: Blaming the health care woes on Marois because of Bouchard’s “deficit zero” program.

8:14 p.m. — Martin:
I like the format of having candidates fight with one another. Mean, without
it dissolving into a shouting match.

8:15 p.m. — Philippe:
It’s made all the better by Charest’s decision not to wear that godforsaken pallbearer’s suit he had on last time.

8:16 p.m. — Martin:
Marois is doing very well right now.

8:19 p.m. — Philippe:
The proof is that she’s everyone’s target. I’m surprised at how much attention she’s getting.

8:20 p.m. — Martin:
Marois doing well. Punchy. The strange thing about the format is that you forget that there’s another guy involved in this.

8:21 p.m. — Martin:
Whaddafuk? Charest just pooched the whole format. The camera guy doesn’t even know where to go.

8:22 p.m. — Martin:
Whoops. Never mind that ‘no shouting’ thing. This is absurd. Catty as hell.

8:23 p.m. — Philippe:
Great line by Dumont: “It’s hard to figure out who’s fault it is.” That cattiness probably benefits him. His party was never in power.

8:25 p.m. — Martin:
Bloody children, the three of them. What was that about being cynical about politics?

8:28 p.m. — Philippe:
Charest looks like he can barely keep a handle on his temper. And he hasn’t even been the victim of a gang-up yet.

8:30 p.m. — Philippe:
So, when do you suppose they’re going to start talking about the economy? To whose benefit is it to talk about health care so much? Charest’s done little on the matter; Marois’s tenor as health minister was about as controversial as it gets; and Dumont’s little more than an ideologue about it.

8:32 p.m. — Philippe:
Someone should fact-check Marois’s claim that the drop-out rate has increased under Charest. Just doesn’t seem right, though it might be.

8:34 p.m. — Philippe:
“Y’a des mesures…” Marois is going to need to get a lot more specific before she’s convincing about economic stuff.

8:39 p.m. — Martin:
” Someone should fact-check Marois¹s claim that the drop-out rate has increased under Charest. Just doesn¹t seem right, though it might be.”

I believe there was a negligable increase in dropout rate under Charest.

8:40 p.m. — Philippe:
There’s Marois’s key line of attack: Quebec’s economic record under Charest isn’t impressive enough for him to call an election about it. I’m not sure she’s right, but if she can make it stick, she’ll make inroads.

8:43 p.m. — Martin:
The question is whether Marois is actually landing any of these punches.

Thoughts, Phil?

8:46 p.m. — Philippe:
I think Marois’s doing great on the economy. Her point about Charest’s lacklustre performance is hard to refute. And her argument that the only person at the table who’s ever dealt with economic hardship was her is also pretty compelling. I’d say she’s landing quite a few punches so far.

8:49 p.m. — Martin:
Charest basically just called Marois a liar.

8:54 p.m. — Philippe:
As much as it might be a popular position to call for the Caisse de dépôt to publish its results right now, Charest’s got a point about not politicizing it. To pretend that bureaucrats could manage it better than anyone else is pure lunacy.

8:57 p.m. — Martin:
You hear that? Charest just said, ‘Mme. Marois, why would you believe a Toronto newspaper?’ This is good, old-time Quebec politics. Blame the friggin’ Anglos in the 416.

8:59 p.m. — Philippe:
Yeah, it’s a suprisingly recurring theme: Charest says Marois and Dumont are planning U.S.-style approach to mortgages, and Dumont and Marois say Toronto knows more about Quebec’s finances than Quebec City.

How do you think Charest’s doing so far, Marty?

9:02 p.m. — Martin:
By the by, I’m surprised Charest hasn’t harped on Marois’s contention in 2007 that sovereignty would create five years of uncertainty.

9:03 p.m. — Philippe:
I’m looking forward to the Constitutional discussion, especially given Marois’s threat of a referendum if Ottawa won’t hand control over cultural issues.

9:05 p.m. — Martin:
Another thing: Charest would do well to get angrier. Granted, he wasn’t in power yet, but his anger in 2003 against Landry helped win him the eleciton.

9:06 p.m. — Philippe:
For what it’s worth, my wife isn’t buying Marois’s soft-hearted approach to things.

9:08 p.m. — Martin:
Charest is just average, which is about all we can expect given the format. He’s rope-a-doping, knowing he had to take punches and is running out the clock. The last hour has been all Marois.

9:09 p.m. — Philippe:
Agreed. Marois’s been surprisingly effective. She’s hammering him on all the right issues: the economy, health care, tax cuts. Charest’s argument that his government made Quebec “a paradise for families” doesn’t hold much water compared to Marois’s credibility on daycare and other family-oriented benefits she instituted under Landry.

9:12 p.m. — Martin:

My wife-to-be is in bed, reading People and Us. Smart, that one.

9:13 p.m. — Philippe:

Dumont’s gonna need to pull a rabbit out of a hat if he hopes to score any points before this is over. He really hasn’t managed much so far.

9:17 p.m. — Philippe:
This constant, Jerry Springer-style arguing is getting on my last nerve. I liked the format for the federal leaders, but this is a bit too tense.

9:20 p.m. — Martin:
If we are going to be completely cynical about things, and we are, it’s this: it doesn’t matter a bit what they are saying. They could be debating the colour of the sky or the direction of the wind, for all anyone cares. What people will end up remembering is who kicked the most ass doing so, and in this case I’d say Marois has the edge.

9:22 p.m. — Philippe:
There we go, Marois’s first “if we were a sovereign country” argument. I’d been waiting for that one.

9:23 p.m. — Martin:
First direct mention of sovereignty at 1h 22m of the debate.

9:24 p.m. — Philippe:
Fools rarely differ.

9:25 p.m. — Philippe:
I can’t for the life of me figure out what Dumont has to be smug about. Charest is absolutely nailing him on his lack of a plan to cut $2-billion from the budget.

9:30 p.m. — Philippe:
I wonder if Dumont is going to join the “let’s crap on Harper” party Marois just started.

9:31 p.m. — Martin:
Marois is on about the Bloc’s initiatives on the ‘Bill-101ization’ of federal institutions. It’s a complete and total non-starter, and she knows it.

9:32 p.m. — Philippe:
Charest’s point about being the only independent person viz. the federal government is a good one, but I’m not sure it’s got much traction in this context. Why isn’t he making that argument on the campaign trail? It would totally fit with his appropriation of “Oui” to say that everyone else is beholden to a federal party.

9:34 p.m. — Philippe:
What is Dumont on about? No one knows whether the PQ would hold a referendum?! I’m pretty sure they’ve had that discussion and the hardliners lost.

9:36 p.m. — Martin:
Sorry, but when did Charest abandon the idea of ‘cultural sovereignty’? He’s the one who brought that chestnut up not a month ago.

9:38 p.m. — Martin:
Bringing up native made cigarettes with Charest. Very canny, Dumont.

Ignoring the question entirely. Very Canny, Charest.

9:40 p.m. — Philippe:
I just spit up red wine on my keyboard when I heard Marois say she was looking forward to hearing Charest’s thoughts on the Constitution. She’s really confident.

9:41 p.m. — Martin:
“Plier les genoux!” Drink!

9:44 p.m. — Philippe:
Bureau just brought up an interesting point. When it comes right down to it, all three agree on “wresting control” of Quebec culture from Ottawa.

9:48 p.m. — Martin:
I think Charest is fine with Marois going on about sovereignty.

9:50 p.m. — Philippe:
Charest’s (otherwise dubious) plan to cut the sales tax on Quebec cultural products is really savvy. Not only does he benefit from the uprising over Harper’s cuts, he gets to pit Ottawa, who would tax them with the GST, even further against Quebec artists.

9:53 p.m. — Martin:
Strange. Marois said Education and Family as a ‘projet de société.’ In fact, she didn’t even mention sovereignty once.

9:54 p.m. — Philippe:
The one phrase we haven’t heard so far: Hydro-Quebec. Given Dumont’s pitch to sell shares of it, with the stock market undergoing colossal drops no less, it should have been an issue, no?

9:58 p.m. — Martin:
Marois and Charest arguing who cut the most trees. What a telling ending.

9:59 p.m. — Martin:
“The one phrase we haven’t heard so far: Hydro-Quebec. Given Dumont’s pitch to sell shares of it, with the stock market undergoing colossal drops no less, it should have been an issue, no?”

True, though it arguably ties into the development of the north.

10:01 p.m. — Martin:

Marois did well. I’d say she’s going to see a bump of 3-4 percent in the next poll.

10:02 p.m. — Philippe:
Agreed. I think Marois wins this round. Charest’s final pitch about economic stability didn’t have the gravitas it would have had he made a solid case for his government’s record. I suppose it was hard for him to make a case after such a short second mandate, but he didn’t make any dents in the PQ’s arguments the Liberals have neglected the economy.

Any final thoughts, Marty?

10:09 p.m. — Martin:
I’d say Charest’s main goal was to hold off the two as much as possible and run out the clock. He achieved that, more or less.

That said, I’d say Marois energized her base a fair bit–the same base that might not have gone out to vote before the debate.

Dumont was remarkably pragmatic. Twice, as far as I remember, he agreed outright with Charest on key files: development of the north and the TVQ reduction for Quebec-produced cultural products.

10:10 p.m. — Philippe:
With that, I say good night. I’m off to drown myself in post-debate analysis, to the eternal annoyance of my wife.

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