Quebec woman becomes instant star after debates

In Wednesday night's French-language debate, 53-year-old Muguette Paille seems to have won the hearts of many viewers.
53-year-old Muguette Paillé from Sainte-Angèle-de-Prémont in Quebec's Mauricie region, has emerged as the real star of Wednesday's French-language leaders' debate 1:40

The aftermath of Wednesday night's French-language debate saw the four political campaigns all spinning that their leader won, but it was a 53-year-old woman questioner who seemed to have won the hearts of many viewers.

Muguette Paillé, a 53-year-old unemployed woman from Sainte-Angèle-de-Prémont in Quebec's Mauricie region, asked the leaders about job creation, particularly for older workers, during the French-language debate.

Paillé quickly became a theme in the debate, as the leaders jumped on her comments to reinforce their policy ideas.

While the leaders were using her name, others were busy setting up Facebook sites declaring her the winner of the actual debate.

Paillé laughed at all of the attention during an interview with Radio-Canada after the debate.

Asked whether she felt she got an answer to her question, Paillé said she felt the leaders were "empathetic," but what she wants is a job.

Muguette Paille became an internet sensation on Wednesday night after she asked the party leaders about job creation, especially for older workers. (RDI)
There were at least six Facebook sites set up in her honour, one declaring her the winner of the debate and another promoting her for the minister of labour.

The largest Facebook page had more than 1,800 people click "like" by Thursday morning.

At one point on Wednesday night, "Mme Paille" became one of Twitter's top 10 most mentioned words in Canada.

Some referred to Paillé as Canada's version of Joe the Plumber, referring to Joe Wurzelbacher, who was used by the Republicans in 2008 as a symbol of average Americans.

Mme Paillé's question

Paillé's question to the leaders was: "The unemployment rate is very high in the region. Steady jobs are scarce. It is hard for someone like me — I'm 53 — to find work. So I would like to know how you intend to create jobs in Quebec, particularly in my region, and how it will help people over the age of 50 find permanent jobs."

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was also asked about Paillé's sudden stardom on Thursday.

"I think she was the star of last night's debate and I tip my hat to her," Ignatieff said.

Ignatieff said he tried to answer Paillé's question on creating jobs for older workers.

In their answers to Paillé's question Wednesday, Layton accused Harper for providing tax cuts for corporations and neglecting average Canadians, saying he had closed his eyes to workers' situations during his tenure as prime minister.

Harper countered by defending his government's record, saying the other parties are calling for tax hikes which "will destroy jobs and harm families," adding his budget had contained funds for senior workers but was rejected by the opposition.

Ignatieff said the government had "forgotten people" in the economic recovery and that Paillé "knows this," and pointed to Conservative plans to spend billions on fighter jets, corporate tax cuts and prisons, instead of regional economic development.

Duceppe accused Harper of taking $17.5 billion out of the Employment Insurance fund in his proposed budget.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly used the word "employment" in Muguette Paille's question. In fact, she said the "unemployment rate" was high.
    Apr 14, 2011 12:59 PM ET