The House

In House panel: French-language debate

In House panel: The reviews are in for the French-language debate. We asked Postmedia columnist Andrew Coyne, Rosemary Barton, the host of CBC's Power and Politics and Gerald Lavoie, a veteran columnist for the Quebec City-based newspaper Le Soleil, to give us their reviews of the leaders.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, left to right, Conservative Leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau shake hands before the start of the French-language leaders' debate in Montreal on Thursday, September 24, 2015. Canadians go to the polls in a federal election on October 19, 2015. (Christinne Muschi/Canadian Press)

The reviews are in the for the first French-language leaders' debate — and the results are all over the map.

It will likely be one of the most significant debates of the campaign in part because it aired on the main television channels in Quebec, including Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec, but also on CBC News Network in English Canada.

Last time, during the 2011 election, the French-language consortium debate reached an impressive 4 million viewers. If voters coalesce around one winner this time around, it could move the polls and break the deadlock between the three party leaders. 

So how did the party leaders fare? We've asked Postmedia columnist Andrew Coyne, Rosemary Barton, the host of CBC's Power and Politics and Gerald Lavoie, a veteran columnist for the Quebec City-based newspaper Le Soleil, to give us their reviews of the leaders. 

Mulcair missed an opportunity 

Lavoie says there is a sense among many of the people he spoke to on the Friday morning after the debate that "nobody won that debate. Nobody impressed us." 

While Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe — an old hand in federal leaders' debate, he's been at it since the 1997 election after all — showed Quebecers he had a strong command of the issues that matter most to them, Lavoie said, but "nobody, I think, is planning to vote for him" in large numbers.

As for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Lavoie said he missed an opportunity. "I think Thomas Mulcair failed to show us the compassionate man that he could be or that he would like to be.

"Most people in Quebec want to replace Stephen Harper. I think Mr. Mulcair should have been working harder on showing who he is, who he can be and not just yelling with Stephen Harper." 

Lavoie said that while the NDP are riding high in the polls, it is still on shaky ground in Quebec. "The polls are showing that [Quebec] could be there power base but if I look here, in my surroundings, in Quebec City, the MPs elected in the last election campaign did not impress us, not at all.

"These MPs were elected for Jack Layton. Layton isn't there. Mulcair has to appeal to the emotion of people and he hasn't done so," Lavoie said. 

Lavoie said that the NDP's standing in the province will rest on the strength of Mulcair's performance over the last couple of weeks of this campaign.

If there was one winner for Lavoie it was Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Lavoie said that many in Quebec, himself included, have not taken Trudeau seriously over the past couple of years.

"At first he was seen as Pierre Trudeau's son, so, definitely not taken seriously. The son did not at all appear to be as solid or as strong as his Dad was. He was seen as a kind of teenager in politics. The cartoonists showed him as somebody who didn't really know what he was talking about it.

"He did not appear as somebody who had strong convictions. Good image, good looking guy, nice family but not somebody who had enough experience to run a fedeal government," Lavoie said. 

But something has changed, it now seems he has a better command of policy. He has stopped reading from a teleprompter, Lavoie said, and he's interacting well with reporters day in and day out. 

"Trudeau, I think, is giving us the image of a young guy who is telling us that 'let us not forget the quarrels of the past,' let's look at the future and what we can do." 

One of Quebec's most respected political columnists, Gilbert Lavoie of Le Soleil, joins us to talk about about some of the key election issues in this province. 11:23