Harel nixes English-language debate
Vision Montreal Leader Louise Harel said Tuesday she would not participate in an English-language debate organized by the CTV network in lead-up to the Nov.1 municipal election.
As a result, CTV said it would cancel the debate, which to date had been the only televised English debate to be announced.
Harel, a former Parti Québécois MNA, came under attack after announcing her candidacy last spring because of her limited English skills. Harel has vowed to improve her English.
"I very much want to create a stronger bond with the Montreal English-speaking community during this election campaign," said Harel in a statement.
"But at this point in time, taking part in an English debate is not the best way to do this. Over the next few weeks, however, I do intend to use all other means at my disposal, by increasing, for instance, the number of appearances and interviews in this community."
Harel said that while she understands and speaks English, the confrontational context of a debate requires a level of bilingualism she does not possess.
Harel said she is more than willing to express her point of view on English television networks in a less confrontational context.
"I know that French- and English-speaking citizens who have had to deal with a similar situation in the past understand my position," said Harel.
CTV Montreal director of news and public affairs Jed Kahane said Harel's decision was disappointing.
Kahane said organizers offered "every formula [they] could" to bring Harel into the debate, including the possibility of using simultaneous translation.
"It would have been an opportunity for our viewers ... to get another chance to hear about issues that matter to them," said Kahane.
"But, we respect her choice."
Mayor Gérald Tremblay, and Projet Montreal Leader Richard Bergeron had already agreed to take part in the half-hour-debate, which was tentatively scheduled to air Oct. 25.
Harel was expected to participate in a French-language debate Wednesday on the LCN television network.