The CBC has formed a consortium — with CTV, Global, CJAD and the Gazette — and written to the leaders of the four main parties.
The request, sent Monday morning by email to the Coalition Avenir Qébec, the Parti Québécois, the Quebec Liberal Party and Québec Solidaire, was signed by CBC Quebec news director Mary-Jo Barr, CTV Montreal news director Jed Kahane, Global Quebec news director Karen MacDonald, CJAD program and news director Chris Bury and the Gazette Editorial page editor David Johnston.
The group is asking for a 90-minute debate in English, to be broadcast live on television, radio and online in the last two weeks of the campaign.
"We think it's really important that English-speaking Quebecers get an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates in their language," said Mary-Jo Barr, news director for CBC Quebec.
English debates rare
There have been a handful of English-language leaders’ debates in the past, but not for decades.
During the last provincial campaign, then Liberal leader Jean Charest and Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault agreed to an English debate, but Pauline Marois refused.
She said at the time she felt her English wasn't strong enough.
Last week, the Parti Québécois issued a statement saying it would prefer to see only one televised debate during the expected campaign — in French.
In response to that, Liberal leader Philippe Couillard said he would debate anyone, anywhere, any time.
CAQ considers request
CAQ leader François Legault said Monday he's "open to discussing the feasibility" of his participation in an English debate.
So far, none of the other major parties have responded to the consortium's request.
“We feel this is really important for them — that they have an opportunity to hear directly from the leaders. So we are going to remain optimistic as long as we can, We’re doing our jobs — we’re asking for the things that we know our audience cares about,” Barr said.