Legault-Marois debate a spirited affair
PQ leader Pauline Marois, (left) and CAQ leader Francois Legault are seen arriving at the debate held in downtown Montreal Wednesday. (CP file photos).
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2012 10:42PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 22, 2012 11:13PM EDT
MONTREAL - Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois and CAQ leader Francois Legault locked horns in a sometimes acrimonious, personal debate, which exposed radically different visions for Quebec in Wednesday’s debate.
The two started with a brief discussion about the Charbonneau Commission and the issue of corruption, with Marois accusing Legault of coming late to the anti-corruption game. Legault shot back with his description of Marois as the candidate of the "status quo," a jab he made repeatedly throughout the one-hour debate.
Legault unveiled his plan to set up a triumvirate of anti-corruption agents consisting of Jacques Duchesneau, Maud Cohen and Sylvie Roy.
The two then thrashed through Legault’s switch from the Parti Quebecois to the CAQ.
Legault explained that even Rene Levesque changed parties and related a personal incident in which Pauline Marois asked him to approach a dying Stephane Bedard in a way he deemed unsuitable, an incident which accused Marois of acting in an “inhuman” manner.
Marois challenged Legault’s health care promises, which have been widely assailed as being over-ambitious. She admitted that she herself might not be able to give a family doctor to every family within a year but said that her aims were similar and she would work to improve the healthcare system step-by-step.
Legault kept Marois on the defensive when it came to financial figures, honing in on her failure to provide a financial breakdown of her program, which Legault said would cost $3 billion a year if she actually kept her promises to stop increases in tuition, electricity and daycare.
He accused Marois of having a debt to the unions, claiming that she’d raise taxes to pay pensions of public servants, a charge she denied.
Legault hammered on Marois' failure to show how much her promises would cost.
“You don’t have the courage to show your numbers,” he said. Marois promised that she would show her numbers, “in a few days.”
Legault said that Marois was also a late convert to the idea of investing more of the Caisse de depot's money in Quebec, claiming that only 10 percent of the Caisse de Depot’s budget stayed in the province when she was in charge.
On the question of a referendum, Marois stated that she would hold one “on the morning after being elected,” noting however that it would likely not be that simple.
Legault then challenged Marois on section seven of the PQ handbook which forces the party to hold a referendum on any subject if 15 percent of the population signs on for it.
He contended that the clause meant that her hand could be forced by any such grassroots initiative, including one on the right to attend English school.
“There’s no doubt that the hardcore radicals will choose the date of the next referendum,” he said. “Fifteen percent of Quebecers will drive us into the ditch with the caribou, he said, “How can you stop that if you get 15 percent?” Legault later explained that his reference to caribou was a slang term for hardcore separatists.
The 15 percent question gobbled up much of the latter stages of the one hour debate.
Both sides took questions afterwards. Legault’s post-debate press conference was a brief affair and included a question on his plans to deal with the language law, which he said he would enforce more vigorously.
Marois, in her turn, stressed once again her experience in government as she did throughout the debate.
She fielded one question about her controversial policy which would ban non-French speakers from running for government and denied that tests would be given, but rather that those who couldn't speak French would be "helped."