Pierre Chénier —
Overall, the campaign’s third and final « leaders’ debate » can be summed up as a fight between Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault, his self-serving presentation on what the majority thinks, and Liberal leader Philippe Couillard. Legault tried to justify his views on immigration by placing them within a more general context of values Quebeckers supposedly hold dear to their heart. In his opinion, even though he has erred while presenting his position on immigration, it is he who represents the values of Quebeckers, of the majority. He also claims to represent their concerns regarding the French language, secularism, the wearing of religious symbols by persons in a position of authority, etc. All he was trying to do, he asserted, was represent the values Quebeckers had expressed in surveys, along with Quebec’s values as a distinct society, which form the basis of his positions on immigration.
In the press scrum following the debate, he refused to say whether or not he was still planning on deporting immigrants for failing his proposed French test or the test on values. Instead, he diverted the issue by asserting that what he was seeking was a better integration of immigrants.
As for Philippe Couillard, all he did during the entire « debate » was to despairingly repeat that the government must respect minority rights, as well as those conferred by the Charter and that he does not govern by opinion polls.
One aspect of the « debates » was the fact that Québec solidaire Spokesperson Manon Massé tried very hard not to embroil herself in the fighting. She did so by adhering to the views of Québec solidaire with regard to the problems confronting the society. « What is fascinating is that the topic should not even be considered an election issue. In actual fact, there exists the issue of integration, not immigration. And what pains me […] is that there are direct impacts on the lives of those who have chosen us. »
In her closing remarks, she said that Quebeckers are justified in hoping for something new and that this is possible. During the debate, she opposed the fact that all proposals to break with the status quo were presented as impossible by the other parties.
As for Parti québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, the sectarianism he demonstrated cost him dearly. A good part of the time allotted to him was spent trying to spread doubt about Québec solidaire, to a point where it became absurd. His motivation in doing so was evidently due to the fact that Québec solidaire appears to be gaining ground in the election at the expense of the PQ. He told Manon Massé she must understand that even if she is a woman, he would be asking her embarrassing questions. For instance, he asked insistently why Québec solidaire had no leader, then asked her if she was the leader, etc. He was completely off topic. It would be an understatement to say that such behaviour, which one could easily associate with a fanatic chauvinist, did not assist him in the least. Not only did the moderator have to call him to order, the monopoly media have been asking what got into him.
Once again, we are witness to the fact that the so-called leaders’ debates serve only to disinform citizens about the issues in this election, the most important of which is to unite in defence of the rights of all by embarking on the road of democratic renewal. Party Governments — No! Measures Which Vest Decision-Making Power in the People — Yes!
Pierre Chénier is the Leader of the PMLQ.