Some Quebec political party leaders are sparring over campaign debates announced today.
A consortium of public broadcasters, including Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec, will air a French-language debate on August 19.
The debate will feature the leaders of Quebec's four major parties — the Liberals, Parti Québécois, Coalition Avenir Québec and Québec Solidaire. Upstart sovereigntist party Option Nationale is excluded from the main debate.
Rival private television network TVA will host its own set of one-on-one debates August 20, 21 and 22, between the Liberal, PQ and CAQ leaders.
Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale aren't invited to the TVA podium.
The co-founder of Québec Solidaire, Françoise David, said Thursday that TVA's exclusion "is unfair, simply unfair."
Québec Solidaire member Amir Khadir represented the party as an elected member during the last government. That should give the party standing in any high-profile debate, David said.
Option Nationale Leader Jean-Martin Aussant is also complaining about being left out of the campaign debates.
In a written statement, Aussant said Quebec election laws are very clear on the subject.
"Leaders' coverage has to be the same. If there is a leaders' debate, I have to be invited. I intend to make sure my rights are respected," he wrote.
Quebec's Electoral Office (DGEQ) said the legal provision Aussant refers to doesn't apply to leaders' debates, as they are considered to be public affairs broadcasts.
Election watchers meanwhile praised TVA's one-on-one debate format.
Montreal-based communications professor Maurice Charland predicts the tête-à-tête concept will deliver in-depth discussion of key campaign issues.
"When you have a debate with more people, I think you're going to have a tendency for more sloganeering," said Charland, who teaches at Concordia University.
TVA's debates will focus on four themes: the economy, governance, social policies, and national identity.
Key Quebec Election Issues
As Quebec begins a provincial election campaign, with a vote scheduled for Sept. 4, here are some key issues and the stated positions, so far, of the three largest parties: the Liberals, the Parti Quebecois and the Coalition for Quebec's Future.<br><br><em>With files from CP</em>
Liberals say their $254-a-year, seven-year tuition increases will improve universities while expanded loans and bursaries programs will actually leave the poorest students better off. Liberals have mostly refused to budge in face of protests, although their original proposal was for $325-a-year increases over five years. Their controversial Bill 78 would reopen classes in mid-August for one-third of students still on strike, while setting out severe fines for anyone blocking schools.<br><br>PQ has been more supportive of protesters and would cancel the hikes, propose smaller increases pegged to inflation and hold provincial summit on university funding.<br><br>The Coalition has positioned itself to occupy the middle ground, proposing more modest annual tuition increases of $200 a year over five years. Party originally voted for Bill 78 but now says it created unnecessary tension and wants some provisions suspended.
After two years of intense pressure, Charest Liberals called a corruption inquiry that is now probing malfeasance in construction industry and its ties to political parties and organized crime. Before that, they had announced plans to hire more oversight officials at Transport Department; tougher fines for engineering firms; stricter political fundraising laws; new rules for public-works tendering; and new anti-corruption squad that has since made numerous arrests.<br><br>PQ making ethics central plank of platform. It wants tougher legislation preventing companies guilty of tax evasion from winning public contracts. It also proposes new measures to combat voter cynicism including: citizen-initiated referendums, fixed election dates, political donations limited to $100 a year, and the right to vote at age 16.<br><br>The Coalition wants new integrity commissioner to oversee government contracts, and new powers for prosecutors, as part of a "big cleanup." It also promises fixed election dates.
Liberals will tout Plan Nord, a sweeping plan that sets out $80 billion in public and private investments in mining, energy, infrastructure and conservation projects over a quarter-century.<br><br>PQ accuses Liberals of selling off Quebec's natural wealth at cut-rate prices and is calling for a 30 per cent surtax on profits from non-renewable resources.<br><br>The Coalition has also taken aim at the signature plan, alleging windfall will primarily benefit foreign companies and Quebec mining firms cosy with Liberals.
Liberals have long stood as the major federalist option in Quebec. Party is frequently accused by opponents of being subservient to Ottawa. However, it has clashed publicly with federal government over issues like long-gun registry, omnibus crime bill and changes to health transfers.<br><br>PQ is offering no timetable for third referendum on independence. Instead, party plans to pick fights with Ottawa in seeking more power over immigration, environment, agriculture and revenue collection. PQ hopes such battles will generate support for independence. Eventually, Quebecers themselves could initiate referendum, under plan to allow California-style plebiscites. People would need to collect 850,000 signatures to hold provincial vote on a given topic.<br><br>The Coalition, led by former PQ minister Francois Legault, vows to shelve any referendum on independence for 10 years to focus on building economy. But many federalists remain wary of the once-passionate sovereigntist.