Quebec Votes·Blog

Pauline Marois and the payoff of a softball

It wasn't a tough question that elicited Pauline Marois's most interesting response. Instead, it was an expertly-lobbed softball question.

How the PQ leader's off-the-cuff response to a simple question became the topic of the day

Pauline Marois campaigning in the Townships on Tuesday alongside Brome-Missisquoi candidate René Beauregard. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

During an election campaign, a journalist's primary tool is a tough question.

We tend to aim for the "gotcha" moment — when the politician gives a truly honest answer, no matter what the day's talking points are.

This week, newly-named Parti Québécois candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau admitted he would not sell his shares in Quebecor even if the national assembly's ethics commissioner demanded it.

He would have never said it publicly had it not been for the reporters' tough questions.

That was a gotcha moment.

(He later said he would "fully cooperate" with the ethics commissioner.)

But today, it wasn't a tough question that elicited Pauline Marois's most interesting response.

Instead, it was an expertly-lobbed softball.

My Radio-Canada colleague Marie-Hélène Tremblay asked Marois whether "an independent Quebec would attract more tourists."

Marois laughed. She even said she liked the question.

Marois momentarily appeared to brush off the query.

But then she responded rather quizzically.

"It won't change out landscape, that's for sure," Marois said.

"We'll still be able to go see the Rockies and PEI and (Canadians) will still be able to come here."

"There will be no borders, no tolls."

I didn't recall hearing Marois use those words in the past, so I tweeted the quote.

 I’ve sent out more than 100 tweets since the campaign began and this one was among my most re-tweeted.

The comments poured into my Twitter account.

"She's a bad joke," said one user.

"Canadians would find elsewhere to spend holiday dollars," said another.

The answer to the softball question had people across Canada talking.

The question – taken to be almost a joke – led Marois to let her guard down and give an off-the-cuff response.

She later suggested Quebecers and Canadians would be allowed to roam freely between an independent Quebec and Canada. Like certain European Union countries, residents wouldn't have to show a passport when crossing the border.

Our web story elicited more than 2,000 comments by the end of the day.

Somewhere on the road between Notre-Dame-des-Bois and Bécancour, Marois’s quote became the talk on the bus full of TV reporters covering the campaign.

Veteran journalists admitted among themselves that a softball question is sometimes more useful than a tough one.

And an honest answer is always more useful to voters than a talking point.


Thomas Daigle

Senior Reporter

Thomas is a reporter for a variety of CBC News programs, currently based in Toronto. Previously at CBC's London, U.K. bureau, he reported on everything from the Royal Family and European politics to terrorism. Thomas filed stories from Quebec for several years and reported for Radio-Canada in his native New Brunswick.