Quebec election debate: CAQ leader hit by opponents on environment, cost of living

Avenir Québec coalition leader François Legault faced a four-way attack on his environmental plan during Thursday’s leaders’ debate, with his rivals suggesting he was going against the tide in the fight against climate change .

Legault, whose party has a clear lead in the polls, appeared to be focusing his counterattacks on one opponent: Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesman for Québec Solidaire, whose left-wing party wants to replace the Liberals as the official opposition.

The prime minister said Nadeau-Dubois’ plans – taxing certain types of cars and spending billions of dollars on public transport projects – are unrealistic.

“I feel like it’s a bit like magic, like being in a wonderland,” Legault said.

Nadeau-Dubois shot back: “Stop scaring people, you should inspire Quebecers and propose solutions.”

“You discourage people, Mr. Legault.”

From left, CAQ leader Francois Legault, Liberal leader Dominique Anglade, Parti Quebecois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Quebec Solidaire co-speaker Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Conservative leader Eric Duhaime attend a debate of the state and and heads of government in Montreal on Thursday, September 22, 2022. Quebecers will go to the polls on October 3. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Quebec aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, but the province fell short of its 2020 reduction target of 20 percent, instead achieving just 6 percent. Legault has said that achieving these goals is not possible without a new hydroelectric power station, and he has indicated that the other four parties’ plans are unachievable.

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The Quebec Liberal Party proposes a 45 percent reduction target for the same period. Meanwhile, Québec solidaire is aiming for 55 percent.


During the cost-of-living section, Legault again took aim at Nadeau-Dubois, addressing comments made by Quebec’s Solidaire leader about “reducing the growth” of certain sectors of the economy.

“What industries are you talking about?” Legault asked.

Nadeau-Dubois didn’t address the issue directly, but did talk about how fossil fuel demand will soon fall, which he says would affect companies like oil refiners.

Legault interrupted him: “And what about the manufacturing industry?” The prime minister hinted that Quebec Solidaire’s ideas would negatively affect the economy.

Nadeau-Dubois accused Legault of making his arguments with fear: “Stop taking out the Halloween decorations and scaring people.”


While Legault’s attacks were most often aimed at Nadeau-Dubois, when it came to mental health, the prime minister focused on Quebec Conservative Party leader Éric Duhaime. The prime minister said Duhaime, whose party has garnered support by opposing COVID-19 measures, was irresponsible.

“Because for the past two years, Mr. Duhaime has played the role of an agitator who has capitalized on the suffering of the people of Quebec,” Legault said, referring to Duhaime’s constant criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

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“He thinks it’s not true that there were fewer deaths in Quebec; frankly, it’s irresponsible.”

Duhaime accused Legault of failing to admit Quebec has a mental health problem related to strict COVID-19 rules, which have included a five-month curfew – the only such measure imposed in the country during the pandemic.

Legault asked if Duhaime would have been willing to sacrifice twice as many seniors by imposing fewer rules.

Duhaime replied, “You have been irresponsible to the children of Quebec, Mr. Legault, never forget that.”

On tax cuts, CAQ, Liberals and Conservatives all want to reduce them, while Quebec solidaire and the Parti Québécois do not. PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon warned that the other parties’ tax cut plans could lead to austerity measures if the recession returns.

“It’s a two-way street towards austerity and it’s a gift for the richest,” said St-Pierre Plamondon, whose party is promising refundable tax credits.

Parti Quebecois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, left to right, Quebec Solidaire co-speaker Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Quebec Conservative leader Eric Duhaime participate in a leaders debate in Montreal on Thursday, September 22, 2022. Quebecers will go to the polls on October 3rd. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said her plan to offer Quebecers tax cuts would not fuel inflation because the extra money would help people meet their basic needs.

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“We are the party that cuts taxes for the middle class and raises them for people who can afford to pay more.”

The CAQ continues to enjoy a solid lead in the polls as the other four major parties battle for second place. The French-language debate, moderated by Radio-Canada, is one of the last chances for Liberal, Québec Solidaire, Conservative and Parti Québécois leaders to face Quebecers ahead of the Oct. 3 vote.

Thursday’s competition was divided into five sections: the environment; the cost of living and the economy; health care; education and public services; and the French language, immigration and identity.

Some political analysts have said that while it would take a major misstep to oust Legault from the top of the polls, the debate remains important and any party leader could draw lessons from a poor performance.

All five party leaders appear live on Sunday night’s “Tout le monde en parle,” a popular talk show on Radio-Canada.

– This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 22, 2022.

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