[lg policy] In English-language debate, CAQ's Legault gets a taste of the rough road ahead

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Sep 18 11:09:26 EDT 2018

 In English-language debate, CAQ's Legault gets a taste of the rough road

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The sharpest barbs of the evening were directed Legault's way - he should
probably get used to it
Jonathan Montpetit · CBC News · Posted: Sep 18, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last
Updated: 7 hours ago
CAQ Leader François Legault, left, found himself under attack from Liberal
Leader Philippe Couillard, right, as well as from the PQ's Jean-François
Lisée throughout Monday's English language debate. (Allen McInnis/Montreal

Over the weekend, the Quebec election campaign transformed into a
referendum on the credibility of François Legault, whose Coalition Avenir
Québec is leading in opinion polls.

On Saturday, and then again on Sunday, Legault flubbed factual questions
about Canadian immigration policy, even though his proposed reforms to that
policy are a centrepiece of his party's platform.

   - Video
   Immigration takes centre stage at Quebec English-language leaders debate

Monday's English-language debate offered a taste of what the next several
days hold in store for Legault: it's not going to be fun.

For extended periods, it was open season on Legault as both Liberal Leader
Philippe Couillard and the Parti Québécois's Jean-François Lisée hammered
him on his immigration policies.

During an exchange about Quebec's labour shortage, estimated at 90,000
unfilled jobs, Legault stood by his promise to lower immigration levels by
more than 20 per cent and expel newcomers who fail to learn French within
three years.

   - Analysis
   François Legault has ramped up his rhetoric around immigration. Here's a
   closer look at the CAQ's plan

   - 'Ballot question' is whether Quebec should cut number of immigrants,
   Couillard says

"It is appalling," Lisée said of the CAQ plan to force non-French-speaking
immigrants to leave the province. Couillard quickly turned it into a
Legault pile-on.

"We know you don't understand immigration," the incumbent premier said.

Lisée and Couillard tag-teamed their volleys at Legault several times
during the debate, whenever the immigration issue came up.

And Legault wasn't always sure where he should direct his return fire.
CAQ Leader François Legault, seen here speaking to the media after the
English-language debate, is likely to find himself pressed on his knowledge
of policy and his command of facts in the two weeks left in the campaign.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
More than just another gaffe

The attacks on Legault's immigration proposals are nothing new, of course.
They produced some of the saltiest moments during Thursday's
French-language debate, as well.

But Legault's gaffes over the weekend changed the significance of these

Immigration, according to most accounts, is not the number one priority of
most voters.

   - Quebec Poll Tracker | CBC News

Couillard has been trying to make hay with the issue for at least two
weeks, to no noticeable effect in the polls.

When Legault exposed his hazy understanding of the nuts-and-bolts of
immigration rules, though, the questions ceased being about the merits of
his proposals.

Instead, they're about whether Legault knew enough about how Canadian
immigration works before drafting a policy that could have far-reaching
effects on Quebec's economy, not to mention its social fabric.

Or, put more simply: Does he have credibility in the eyes of voters when
making campaign promises?

That's a question that is more likely to resonate with Quebecers than at
what point in the immigration process a Quebec selection certificate ought
to be handed out.
Is it fun being François Legault?

The reaction from Legault's camp to the flubs was swift, and hinted at the
danger his associates sense in this line of questioning.

Before Monday's debate, the CAQ's Granby candidate, François Bonnardel —
one of Legault's faithful lieutenants — insisted to reporters that his
leader was "an expert at immigration."

Stéphane Gobeil, a senior campaign adviser, tweeted out results of a
current affairs quiz
the four leaders took for La Presse back in July. Legault scored the

Legault did not make any major missteps in Monday's debate, and so may have
stanched the bleeding from the weekend's self-inflicted wounds.

But he shouldn't get too comfortable. Not only have his two principal
rivals identified a weakness, but the public, too, has questions about his
readiness for the top job.

He will be pressed on his knowledge of policy, on his intelligence, on his
command of facts and figures.

No, it didn't look like it was much fun to be François Legault on Monday
night. And it probably won't be for the next few days.

But if he can put to rest doubts about his credibility, Oct. 1 might still
be very fun for him indeed.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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