Grab your popcorn and buckle up for a week of debates that could change the course of this campaign – starting tomorrow with TVA’s leaders’ debate. French-language television network TVA holds the first of three leaders debates tomorrow, giving them a chance to connect with the French-speaking audience in Quebec. They also need to frame their response to the premier’s demands — crucial steps in the historical path to government for all federal parties in Canada.
The TVA debate will be televised as part of the network’s Face-à-Face series, hosted by Pierre Bruneau. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet will participate in tomorrow night’s war of words, set for broadcast on TVA, LCN, QUB radio at 8 p.m (EDT).
Performing well in the TVA debate is vitally important for the leaders because the broadcast is expected to have the highest viewership of all three debates in a province with nearly a quarter of Canada’s 338 federal seats.
Trudeau, O’Toole and Singh will also be measured against the performance of the BQ’s Yves-Francois Blanchet who is arguably the best communicator of the bunch. The strength of his party could be a roadblock on the path to government for the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP.
Recent polling suggests that many Quebec ridings are still a toss up, so the pressure is on all leaders to do well on TVA and in the official French-language debate that will be held next week.
All four leaders at the debate will look to win over Quebeckers by addressing Premier Francois Legault’s list of demands, spelled out in a letter sent on Thursday, August 26th. His main issues were increased health transfers and greater provincial control over immigration.
On health, Legault asked for increased transfers from the federal government with no strings attached. He criticized both the Liberal and NDP plans for tying increased funding to specific areas. He liked O’Toole’s plan to boost health transfers by six per cent annually, but noted it didn’t include an immediate jump in the Canada Health Transfer.
On immigration, Legault called on federal leaders to hand control over family reunification to Quebec so that the province could apply French-language requirements. Again, O’Toole suggested his party would work to meet those demands if he became the next prime minister, while Singh and Trudeau stayed mum on the issue.
Infrastructure, housing, climate action, energy infrastructure, and the $6 billion childcare agreement with the Liberal government will also be at play in the discussions on both this Thursday and next.
As party staff scramble to build their strategic responses to Legault’s demands, the French-language debates will set the stage for the remaining weeks of the campaign as parties look for an advantage in this important battleground province. It is a major opportunity for all leaders to gain or momentum, not only in Quebec, but across the country.