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Quebec English leaders’ debate called off after Legault, PQ refuse to participate

Quebec’s English-language leaders’ debate for this fall’s provincial election has been called off after two party leaders, including Premier François Legault, refused to participate.

The event was being organized by a consortium of English-language media, made up of CBC, CTV, Global and CJAD.

The group had invited the leaders of the province’s five main political parties: The Coalition Avenir Québec, the Liberal Party of Quebec, Québec Solidaire, the Parti Québécois and the Conservative Party of Quebec.

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On Friday, a spokesperson for Legault confirmed the premier had said no to the invite.

“We have declined invitations for two debates, including one in English,” said Ewan Sauves. “One must understand that each debate requires significant and non-negligible preparation time.”

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The spokesperson also said Legault would take part in French-language debates organized by TVA and Radio-Canada. 

The Parti Québécois also announced it would not participate in the English debate. In a tweet, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, the party’s leader, said “the official and common language of Quebec is French.”

With two of the main five party leaders refusing the invite, the English-language media consortium has decided to cancel the event.

“The goal was to allow all Quebecers to hear the party leaders discuss, debate and question their vision and priorities for Quebec and help all voters make an informed choice,” reads a statement from the group. 

“Without the participation of all the main party leaders, the English-language media consortium representatives agree it would not be a fair and informative exercise.”

Paul st pierre plamondon business
Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois, announced his refusal to take part in a leaders debate in English on Friday, saying that French was the official and common language of the province. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

In 2018, Legault and other provincial party leaders participated in a live, televised English debate — a first in Quebec’s history. 

The only other English, provincial leaders’ debate in Quebec took place in 1985. It was a radio-only affair featuring Liberal Leader Robert Bourassa and PQ leader Pierre-Marc Johnson.

In a statement, Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade described Legault’s refusal to participate as “deplorable.”

“François Legault is turning his back to a part of the Quebec population,” Anglade said.

The English debate would have taken place on Sept. 20 at the Nouvelle Maison Radio-Canada in downtown Montreal.

The next provincial election is set for Oct. 3.

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