Conservatives’ Éric Duhaime ready to debate in English, even without Legault

Premier François Legault and PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon opted out of an English debate, but Liberal leader Dominique Anglade says she’s open to participating.

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Conservative Party of Quebec leader Éric Duhaime says he’s willing to participate in an English-language debate during the next election, even if Premier François Legault doesn’t take part.

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On Friday, an English-language media consortium decided to cancel its planned debate, scheduled for Sept. 20, after Legault and Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said they wouldn’t participate.

But Duhaime hopes the project could soon be reborn.

He says at least one English-language media outlet has told him it would be willing to hold a debate without Legault, as long as Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade agrees to take part as well.

On Saturday morning, Duhaime sent Anglade an invitation, who in turn said she would be willing to participate.

“If a consortium of English-language media is interested in holding a debate in English, I am very open to participating,” Anglade wrote on Twitter. “It’s important to get our ideas out to all Quebecers.”

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The details would still need to be worked out, but Duhaime said he believes Quebec’s English-speaking community deserves to have its own debate to address the issues that are important to the community, including health care, education and language issues — even if Legault doesn’t don’t participate.

“That’s what democracy is all about: the voter has to have both sides of the story before he or she can make up his or her own mind,” Duhaime said in an interview. “It’s important that the opposition parties be able to express their opinions to English-speaking people as well.”

On Friday, Legault’s press attaché said preparing for debates takes a lot of time, and that the premier had already committed to debating the other party leaders on TVA and Radio-Canada in French.

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The media consortium of CBC, CTV, Global and CJAD then canceled the event, saying without all the major parties present, it would be impossible to present a “fair and informative” debate.

But Duhaime said the way he sees it, after preparing for two debates, the additional time required to prepare for an English debate wouldn’t be so substantial.

Instead, Duhaime accused Legault of wanting to limit the debates in the run-up to an election in which he is heavily favoured. Duhaime recalled Legault participated in an English-language debate during the 2018 election campaign.

He feels the opposition parties could even benefit from Legault’s absence since they would have more visibility, something they struggled to get during the pandemic.

Duhaime said if a new debate project is born, a new series of invitations will be sent out, including to the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec, to see if they want to reconsider their decision.

On Twitter, Anglade said she hopes they will.

“I invite (Legault) to face the music and participate,” she wrote.

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