Alliance for the Future of Quebec leader Francois Legault faced a four-way attack on his environmental plan during Thursday’s leaders’ debate, with his rivals suggesting he’s against the tide in the fight against climate change.
Legault, whose party is leading in the polls, appeared to focus his counterattacks on one opponent: Quebec Solidere spokesman Gabriel Nadu Dubois, whose left-wing party is looking to replace the Liberals as the official opposition.
The prime minister said Nadeau-Dubois’ plans – to tax certain types of cars and spend billions of dollars on public transport projects – were not realistic.
“I get the impression it’s kind of like magic, like I’m in a wonderland,” Legault said.
Nadeau Dubois replied: “Stop scaring people, you should inspire Quebecers, and suggest solutions.”
“You are discouraging people, Mr. Lego.”
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. Legault said these goals are not possible without a new hydroelectric dam, and suggested that the plans of the other four parties are not achievable.
The Liberal Party of Quebec is proposing a 45 percent reduction target over the same period. Meanwhile, Quebec Solidere is aiming for 55 per cent.
Leaders face the cost of living
During the section on the cost of living, Legault again targeted Nadeau-Dubois, invoking comments made by the Quebec Solidere leader about “de-growth” of certain sectors of the economy.
“What sectors are you talking about?” asked Legault.
Nadeau Dubois did not directly address the question but did talk about how the demand for fossil fuels will soon fall, which he said will affect companies such as oil refineries.
He cut him off to wander about, “What about manufacturing?” The Prime Minister suggested that the Quebec Solidere ideas would negatively affect the economy.
Nadeau accused Dubois Legault of using fear to make his arguments: “Stop taking out Halloween decorations and scaring people.”
Dheim, Lego Spar on Epidemiological Response
While Legault’s attacks were most often directed at Nadeaux Dubois, the prime minister focused on Quebec leader Eric Duhemy’s Conservative Party with regard to mental health. The prime minister said Dehim, whose party had gained support through its opposition to the COVID-19 measures, was irresponsible.
“Because over the past two years, Mr. Dahemy has played the role of an instigator who has profited from the suffering of the people of Quebec,” Legault said, regarding Douhemé’s continued criticism of the handling of the pandemic.
“He thinks it’s not true that there have been fewer deaths in Quebec; frankly, that’s irresponsible.”
Duhemée accused Legault of being unable to admit Quebec has a mental health problem related to strict COVID-19 rules, which included a five-month curfew – the only measure enforced in the country during the pandemic.
Legault asked if Doheme was willing to sacrifice twice as many seniors by enforcing fewer rules.
“You have been irresponsible with the children of Quebec, Mr. Legault, never forget it,” replied Dhaimi.
On the issue of tax cuts, the CAQ, liberals and conservatives want them to be cut, while Quebec Solidere and Parti Québécois do not. PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon has warned that third-party tax cut plans could lead to austerity if there is another recession.
“It’s a one-way trip toward austerity, and it’s a gift to the rich,” said Saint-Pierre Blamondon, whose party promises refundable tax breaks.
Liberal leader Dominique Engled said her plan to offer tax cuts to Quebecers would not fuel inflation because the extra money would help people meet their basic needs.
“We are the party that lowers taxes on the middle class and increases it on people who can pay more.”
The CAQ still has a strong lead in the opinion polls while the other four major parties are vying for second place. The French-language debate, hosted by Radio Canada, is one of the last opportunities for leaders of the Liberal, Quebec Solidere, Conservative and Parti Québecois parties to present their bids to Quebec ahead of the October 3 vote.
Thursday’s competition was divided into five sections: Environment; cost of living and economy; Health Care; education and public services; The French language, immigration and identity.
Some political analysts said that while it would take a major gaffe to get Legault off the top of the polls, the debate remains important and any party leaders could face the consequences of a poor performance.
The leaders of the five parties are scheduled to appear live on Sunday night on “Tout le monde en parle,” a popular talk show on Radio Canada.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on September 22, 2022.