01/26/2013 09:54 EST | Updated 03/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Bachand booed for alluding to Couillard, Porter connection

Raymond Bachand was booed by the crowd attending the third Liberal Party leadership debate after talking about a relationship between his opponent, Philippe Couillard, and the controversial former head of the McGill University Health Centre.

"While we were fighting corruption and making laws and fighting tax evasion, what did you do? You were there partnering with Arthur Porter and working in Saudi Arabia," said Bachand.

Some members of the audience cheered Couillard for dismissing the attack.

"It's too easy to drop names and establish guilt by association," said Couillard. "I could do it too, but I won't do that."

Last month, an official investigation by the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services blamed Dr. Porter and the former board of directors of the MUHC for massive cost overruns at MUHC, as well as a hospital deficit that could reach $115 million this year, a record for a Quebec hospital.

Porter left the country after resigning from his position at the MUHC.

Fighting corruption

Bachand said the government may have waited too long before putting the ongoing corruption inquiry, the Charbonneau commission, in place.

He said giving more money and resources to Quebec's anti-corruption squad in the future would help prevent corruption.

"It's very complex to fight collusion and find corruption. You need inquiries... you need to follow the people around," he said.

Couillard said the best way to abolish corruption and collusion in government is to improve its transparency.

Moreau, on the other hand, said the Charbonneau commission should be granted permanent status.

He also said the government should adopt laws to protect whistleblowers and eliminate the rule of the lowest bidder.

Moreau said he supports the previous Liberal government's measures to fight corruption.

Funding universities

The three candidates vying for the Quebec Liberal Party leadership say students will have to do their share in funding universities.

Philippe Couillard opened the debate on the question of university funding.

He suggested indexing tuition fees to the cost of living, in addition to abolishing tuition freezes.

Raymond Bachand quickly rebutted his opponent and said indexation would not suffice to alleviate the financial strain on universities.

"Indexation is a cop-out. Indexation is something that traditional politicians [use when] not wanting to address the issue head on," said Bachand.

"Students should do their fair share," said Bachand. "I think the four medical faculties, which cost much more... [and] in which the students make after two or three years over $100,000, should pay more. This would reduce the pressure for other students."

Pierre Moreau said indexation was "nothing but a [band-aid solution.]"

A push for anglophones in the public service

The three former ministers were asked about the lack of anglophone participation in Quebec's public sphere. All three agreed that the government should focus on recruiting anglophones.

"Personally, I think the percentage of English-speaking [people] in public service should reflect the percentage of English-speaking [people] in Quebec," said Moreau.

He added that if he were to be elected as the province's premier, he would have anglophone representatives in all sectors of the government rather than assign a minister responsible for the English-speaking community.

Bachand said he would plan to create "specific internships" for anglophone students who wish to join the public service.

"We have to make it more attractive," he said.

Couillard, on the other hand, said separating anglophones and francophones leads to further division. However, he said Montreal needs its own full-time minister.

"The saddest thing I see when I walk around Quebec is seeing how many young anglophones are perfectly bilingual or almost perfectly bilingual but still, we have too many francophones that do not have the same language skills," he said.