I just finished watching the one on one debate between Jean (or is it John) Charest and Pauline Marois. My first thought is that I'd love to see this format at the federal level, with party leaders going toe to toe in a series of debates instead of the usual free for all with four or five speakers all fighting for the viewer's attention.
So who won? That's the question everyone asks at the end of a debate, and I won't vacillate and qualify my answer, I'll put it right out there. Jean Charest won, not a knockout but I'd wager that if there were three judges keeping score of blows landed and punches thrown, that the current first minister of Québec would be ahead on all of them.
I couldn't help but envision M. Charest as a child called into the principal's office for a severe talking to, but he came prepared. The only area I found his answers lacking was his assertion that the French language is not losing ground in Québec. Donne moi un break la, Monsieur Charest, tiens...guess what...c'est claire que ça c'est un fait.
On the economy they went back and forth with the Liberal leader taking shots at the PQ`s stewardship of the economy when Mme Marois and the PQ were in government. Mme Marois in turn landed some blows over the government's fiscal record over the past nine years. RESULT, DRAW
On the student protests, Mme Marois has chosen the street and cast her lot with the protesters. Charest defended himself well against accusations that he is incapable of achieving consensus, and that his government was intrangient, citing examples of modifications and accomodations that were proposed and rejected by the most militant factions of the student movement. Charest was forceful in asserting his belief that 5 out of 25 students who wished to continue attending classes during the strikes be allowed to do so. RESULT CHAREST
On governance, Mme Marois' proposals for fixed elections dates and term limits resonated with me, and if Charest gave a reasonable answer, I missed it. RESULT MAROIS
On protection of the French language and culture, Mme Marois carried the day. For those who consider the protection of French as a language and the Québecois culture a priority, it was no contest as I mentioned at the start. The French language is retreating, denying a fact made Charest look weak in my opinion. RESULT MAROIS
As for independence, no big surprises. Mme Marois stated her belief in an independent Québec with Monsieur Charest saying independence is not something Québecers are concerned with during these difficult economic times. RESULT DRAW
That's what I remember right now off the top of my head. The level of acrimony was incredible, and I was genuinely sick of hearing Charest continually attempt to cut in with Mme Marois, Mme Marois, Mme Marois. I'd love to know how many times he said it, my guess would be close to 500. There were times where his countenance bespoke a man close to losing control, but he held it together.
I don't think the Liberal leader won over any Péquistes of course. Tomorrow's debate against the CAQ's François Legault could very well define this election and determine the Liberal's chances of a return to power.
A final note, while I called this a decided victory for Mr. Charest based on my own viewing of the debate, an on-line poll on the Journal de Quebec's website (I watched the debate via the paper's on-line stream) had Charest ahead at roughly 57 to 43 per cent.