|One leader needs to take a debating class...|
Because education is at the forefront of the issues in this 2012 Quebec election and everyone loves grades to determine winners and losers despite being cognizant that it is a reductionist tool for what something entirely dependant on your socioeconomic and cultural point of view, here is the report card on the Quebec leader's debate.
Jean Charest: B
If you hate Premier Jean Charest - and many Quebecers do - than everything from his responses to his body language to his knowing smile were a source of constant irritation throughout the debate. However, if you're a Liberal supporter, you saw his demeanor as that of confident leader that was just itching to respond to the many of criticisms thrown his way throughout recent months. From what many are taking away from the commenting twiterrati is that his cocksure smile did him in. Well, twitter isn't the electorate or else all of Quebec would have been marching in the streets demanding free university education.
His grade here is more based on his debating ability. He always had a ready answer to every question and accusations against him didn't phase him at all. He was able to go on the offensive quite ably as well. He didn't feel compelled to overreact and get overly emotional unlike some of his opponents. Throughout, he was professional and knew his issues in depth.
However, his biggest failure were his omissions and his obfuscations. Regarding the criticisms laid before him, he always deflected them. There never was a mea culpa on his part on any issue despite questionable decisions from his government. In the end, he sounded more and more like Stephen Harper blaming the federal Liberals for the ills of Canada as he kept blaming the PQ for every thing despite being in power for 9 years. Personal responsibility and humility never made an appearance.
Françoise David: A-
The Quebec Solidaire co-leader (or co-spokesperson) displayed a great deal of maturity, knowledge on the issues and professionalism that was both unexpected and surprising. Of all the leaders, she was the most at ease in the debate and was able to shine due to her poise and calm behaviour. For many, the inclusion of Quebec Solidaire wasn't supposed to have any impact and all the other leaders dealt with her by simply ignoring her. They did so at their own peril because while it's questionable whether her performance will lead to greater support, she more than held her own and made them pale in comparison.
My only criticism is that much like many other left-wing leaders, the viewer would necessarily raise an eyebrow every time she casually suggested that free university education is a simple choice. An electorate that was largely opposed to the student demands won't simply shrug and let the suggestion go by without scrutiny.
Pauline Marois: B-
Overall, she came across as very capable and knowledgeable on every issue. She was combative but sometimes lost her cool. Nothing dramatic but she'd often go over her time and was irritated by Jean Charest especially. It appeared like Question Period at the National Assembly all over again! But more often than not, she'd remain composed and took her shots at her opponents with good effect and was able to point out glaring inconsistencies in both the Liberals and the CAQ.
She held her own quite well but the wishy-washy statement of "I-want-a-referendum-tomorrow-but-it-depends-on-the-people-so-I-guarantee-there-won't-be-any-surprises-but-it-probably-will-happen-within-the-first-mandate-if-things-look-promising" is just more evidence of why a party like Option Nationale is necessary as a more upfront sovereignist party.
François Legault: C-
Well he didn't collapse on the stage and curl up in the fetal position so that's a positive. He was far from eloquent, he never inspired and was often repeating the same things over and over again. He would sometimes answer a question that was no longer the topic discussed and was determined to go over his time and act boorishly.
The repetition of his talking points though, did come across clearly but if we'll remember one thing from his performance, it will be his constant questioning of "how many doctors does Quebec additionally need so that everyone has a doctor in the province?"
He asked that question over and over and over again. One the campaign trail, he's developed the reputation of being Quebec's version of Joe Biden. Put a microphone in front of him and he'll say something stupid.
He never looked even remotely comfortable. It will be in his interest to hype his caucus the rest of the way rather than his own credentials. He was unprepared to respond to attacks against his economic plan but wasn't completely out of sorts when he was taking shots at the Liberals or the PQ.
Still, this party is crying out for a professional communications director.