03/21/2014 09:45 EDT | Updated 05/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Quebec election debate yields no clear winner

None of Quebec's political leaders are revelling in victory this morning, after a relatively tame debate that saw no clear winners emerge.

Robert Libman, a former MNA with the Equality Party and the former mayor of Côte-St Luc, says last night's debate revealed that Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois is struggling to move past the referendum question and win over more voters. 

"You can’t erase the image of Pierre Karl Péladeau during the campaign raising his fist. That’s probably the one image that defined this campaign so far. He raises his fist and he says ‘I want a country for my children.’ How can you escape that powerful image?" Libman told CBC's Daybreak.

"No matter what she says, that’s going to haunt her during the campaign."

Over the course of the night, there were multiple attempts from Marosis's opponents to get the PQ Leader to give a straight answer on whether she would hold a referendum in her first mandate. 

But she avoided committing to a firm answer, responding with: "No ... as long as Quebecers aren't ready for one."

Libman says that type of answer was clearly orchestrated by her and her advisers.

“[Last night] she said there will not be a referendum — pause pause pause — until Quebecers are ready for one. So I think her and her advisers tried almost to trick Quebecers into — don’t worry about the referendum question, it’s not going to happen, and then she slips in ‘unless Quebecers are ready,'" Libman said. 

“What does that mean? Does that mean that they’re going to try to ready or prep Quebecers to want to have a referendum in the first mandate?”

Liberals capitalize on referendum fear

This morning, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard continued to slam the PQ leader for her refusal to give a simple yes or no on the referendum question.

"People have had enough, people want to stop talking about these things," Couillard told CBC's French service, Radio-Canada. 

Couillard says last night's debate managed to keep a respectful tone, but it's clear there's plenty of tension behind the scenes between the Liberal Leader and Marois.

When Radio-Canada's Sébastien Bovet asked Couillard why he was wearing a pin of the Quebec flag during the debate, Couillard responded: 

"Something that frustrates me a bit is that the Parti Québécois, for several years, has kind of branded itself as the representative for Quebec pride. That's not true, the Quebec flag belongs to everyone, all Quebecers. You don't have to be a Péquiste to be proud."