The French language debate was a very interesting debate in some ways superior to the English language debate because the issue of national unity was debated in very revealing ways, and the issues of unemployment,poverty and social policy received a better airing than in the English language debate., Was there a clear winner? No. But one has to say that once again Jack Layton did very well. Michael Ignatieff also did well on the issue of national unity in particular and in scolding Gilles Duceppe for still being obsessed with the constitution when there was very little interest in constitutional questions in 2011 when economic concerns were paramount.
Duceppe had however a good comeback which is very well documented in Quebec. Things can change very quickly. Since the P.Q. can easily become once again the government of Quebec in one or two years and it remains committed to achieving sovereignty this issue can become a hot one again.The debate on this issue revealed the pitfalls of the deux nations strategy that each of the federalist leaders in one way or the other have signed onto. When you say that Quebec is a nation, its leadership expects and will demand all the trappings of a nation state and that will not go down well in English speaking Canada. Although his French is very serviceable, Stephen Harper’s effort to play the role of the open for business Prime Minister quietly going about his work left him largely on the sidelines during the debate. As such, I don’t believe he accomplished much in advancing the Conservative cause in Quebec. Gilles Duceppe defended his turf reasonably well but I suspect the debate might weaken his hold somewhat on certain Bloc voters who might desert the Bloc for the NDP. The Liberals probably held their own and Michael Ignatieff will be viewed more favourably than before the debate, although distrust of the Liberals post Gomery and the Provincial Liberal government’s unpopularity means they have a steep hill to to climb to regain their previous popularity in Quebec.