08/02/2012 06:29 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec Election Debates Leave Out Some Leaders

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.

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