Quebec English election debate nixed after two leaders, including Legault, decline to attend

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By Selena Ross

The only English-language debate planned for Quebec's fall election has been called off after two party leaders, including Premier François Legault, said they won't take part.

All the party leaders were invited this week to participate in a single English-language debate on Sept. 20, hosted by a media consortium made up of several English-language outlets in the Montreal area, including CTV News.

The ruling CAQ party and the Parti Québécois both said almost immediately that their leaders wouldn't attend, with the first saying it would add too much to Premier François Legault's campaign workload and the PQ refusing on principle.

The coalition said that in the end, no English-language debate will take place in 2022.

"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," the coalition said in a statement.

"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. As a result there will be no English-language party leaders debate in this election campaign."

Legault's spokesperson, Ewan Sauves, said in a statement Friday that the English debate isn't the only one the premier turned down.

"We declined the invitations for two debates, one of which was in English," he said.

"The premier will already take part in the debates organized by the TVA and Radio-Canada networks. It must be understood that each debate requires significant and non-negligible preparation time."

While Legault's spokesman cited the effort involved, the leader of the Parti Quebecois had a different reason that he communicated bluntly on Twitter.

"The Parti Québécois will not participate in the leaders' debate in English. The official and common language in Quebec is French," wrote PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

"We will of course be available to answer questions from English-speaking journalists."
 

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