I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but I think it was right after Jean Charest dragged out last night’s yarn about the Moisan
Inquiry Report (thx @joseelegault!) from last decade and Pauline Marois said something like, “Mr. Charest, it’s not you who is going to give me lessons in integrity, it’s indecent,” and then Charest said “The answer is no,” apparently to a question lost in cross talk, and then they talked at each other about something about transport or corruption, that I was suddenly wishing for a time not 24 hours ago when debates were structured, timed and properly refereed—tricoté serré, as they say—rather than an invitation for two politicians to work each other into a hairball mess of pissy words and nasty looks.
Say what you will about last night’s Radio-Canada’s format (I called it “plodding”), but at least it more or less kept these very eager people from straying too far from their talking points. You’d think that was a bad thing, until you watched tonight’s mess. It’s incredible, but there you go: as in Question Period before, two of the province’s foremost political leaders proved to their electorate that they can’t sit across from each other without acting like five-year-olds.
It was a venal display best encapsulated by a Charest-calibre disconnect: our Premier spent the first 10 minutes decrying Marois’s “dirtying of the political class” by repeating insinuations and allegations about his government. Then, not five minutes later, he brings up the fact that, under Lucien Bouchard, Tony Accurso received an untendered contract of some sort. So what, you say? Exactly. There is no evidence that Bouchard (or Marois, who was a minister in Bouchard’s government) did anything untoward at all. All Charest wanted to do, apparently, was say the words “Accurso” and “Bouchard” in the same sentence—because Accurso, who has enriched himself with government construction contracts before and even after getting nabbed for fraud recently, is a poisonous name. It’s Charest’s way of spreading the manure around a bit, given so much of it is on the Liberal field. You know, with insinuations and allegations. Chutzpah isn’t a strong enough word.
Boxing analogies, apart from being clichéd, don’t even fit. This was like watching question period crossed with professional wrestling. Even the decor, all shiny glass and leather office chairs, made it seem they were doing a pre-fight bit in Mean Gene Okerlund‘s cubicle, except moderator Pierre Bruneau would step in only to ask his cue card questions and then recuse himself entirely for the ensuing cat fight. Marois had a couple of good lines—”You have to be responsible for something, you’ve been here for two mandates”—and Charest scored on the question of a referendum, showing the province at large that it is physically impossible for Marois to say whether there will be a referendum during a first PQ mandate.
Québec Solidaire’s François David, who shined during last night, was angry that she wasn’t included in TVA’s series of three debates. As Charest, Marois and François Legault drag themselves through this mess for another two nights, I wonder if she isn’t a little bit relieved.