Rivers on the Premier Débat en Français


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 3rd, 2019



The Bloc leader, Yves-François Blanchet, was in good form, making his points as the leader of the resurgent Quebec federal, but separatist, party. It has to be an appealing option for Quebecers – a political party dedicated solely to protecting their interests in Parliament. And their end goal is ‘Quebexit’ (Quebec exit). After all, as Mr. Scheer pointed out, thanks to Mr. Harper Quebec already can claim ‘nation’ status.

All fr lang candidates Oct 2

Five candidates took part in a French language debate:  Yves-François Blanchet, for the BLOC Quebec, Andrew Sheer for the Conservatives, journalist Pierre Bruneau, Justin Trudeau for the Liberals and Jagmeet Singh for the New Democrats.

Justin Trudeau was reserved, calm and collected even when when he was bombarded by personal attacks and cut off in mid-sentence by both Singh and Scheer. He chose to patiently bide his time even if it did reduce his speaking time. And he chose to ignore cheap shots by Sheer over costumes, his passion for canoeing or about about having two planes, which he also used during the 2015 election. Indeed, unlike Scheer, he did buy emission credits for his travel.


Jagmeet Singh with some of his supporters.

Jagmeet Singh spoke well, at least until he started into his well-worn rant about the rich and poor. In the process he took personal shots at Trudeau, calling him rich. In fact Justin inherited a little over a million dollars when his father died – about the value of a nice bungalow in Toronto. And it’s not as if Singh, a lawyer, was ever poor. His father, a successful psychiatrist, put him through a private American high school which charges US $31,260 annual tuition. He is known to wear tailor-made expensive suits, owns a couple of Rolex watches and chooses to ride a high end bicycle.


Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party.

Almost every time Trudeau was given the podium, Andrew Scheer would butt in to interrupt him in broken French. And it was painful watching Scheer stumble with a language he never will be able to speak fluently. While Scheer’s French comprehension seemed pretty good, his ability to express himself was abysmal. For someone who grew up in mostly bilingual Ottawa, attended French immersion classes, and would have had free language training as an MP, that is inexcusable.

Scheer has been a federal MP for 15 years, since 2004, and House speaker from 2011 till 2015. Watching him stumble on the podium was embarrassing for everyone. Finally Mr. Blanchet helped him out by translating his so-called win-win strategy as just an ‘oil pipeline’. And even Singh got frustrated as Scheer fumbled trying to translate the Anglicism win-win into French.

But language aside it was what he was saying that differentiated him from the other candidates/party leaders. When Trudeau asked him directly, he refused to endorse a woman’s right to choose. Though the next day he said he is pro-life, what ever that means. We are all pro-life, but he is anti-choice.

His climate change dream plan amounts to a bunch of hypothetical schemes and a recycled home energy retro-fit program. And his plan to cancel the carbon tax seemed so out of context, especially given his refusal to acknowledge the carbon tax-rebate. Scheer re-iterated the false-hood that a carbon tax doesn’t work.

But where he really ran into trouble was his big win-win job creation project – an oil pipeline across Quebec. That is never going to fly in today’s Quebec. They understand that the gasoline car is on the way out, to be replaced by the EV In fact, if Scheer had checked he would have found out that Quebecers buy more EV’s per capita than folks anywhere else in the country.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeking a second term of office.

Inevitably Trudeau was also challenged for his government’s apparent hypocrisy in purchasing the TMX pipeline and his plans to more than double capacity. Perhaps explaining that he was using federal money to protect Alberta’s oil industry would have been unwise, given where he was speaking? Instead he defended the purchase on the basis that profits from the pipeline will be dedicated to fund national renewable energy projects.

TVA, the French language network hosting the debate, has broad coverage through out Quebec, particularly in the area outside of Montreal. This is territory traditionally friendly to the Conservatives. So it was important for the Tories to hang onto their ridings here. But this was also an opportunity for the Bloc, NDP and Liberals to try to take some of these ridings away.

And the truth is that Mr.Scheer had a really bad night. It was the toxic combination of what he said as well as how he said it. Scheer’s main platform is about a national energy corridor which includes an oil pipeline. There is no social acceptability for that kind of initiative in this province. Quebecers care deeply about climate change and the environment so the last thing they want is another oil pipeline.

Bloc leader

Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the BLOC. was clearly the winner

There is another French language debate, so one shouldn’t count Mr. Scheer out of the race just yet. Berlitz can work miracles they say. But, language aside, he has his work cut out on policy development if he wants to inch his way into the hearts of Quebecers.

Blanchet was clearly a winner and Trudeau held his own. Singh performed well, but it remains to be seen whether Quebecers will opt for retaining the remaining NDP seats in the face of a mostly like-minded Bloc that is committed solely to their provincial interests. And for a land which recently enacted a law outlawing public servants wearing religious symbols, Mr. Singh has a huge uphill climb to convince them that he should be the top public servant of the country.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links

Sheer Face to Face 

BC Carbon Tax –       Liberal Planes –      Singh and Wealth –     Scheer Anti-Choice

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11 comments to Rivers on the Premier Débat en Français

  • Roger

    Respectful analysis – Mr. Scheer shows painfully how out of step he is with today’s Canada – then the revelation – BTW – I am American given he was critical of others having dual citizenship – not sure if Mr. Trudeau will be elected with a majority however Mr. Scheer as Prime Minister personally Canada would poorer for it

    • Phillip Wooster

      Interesting that there are at least 11 LIBERAL MP’s with dual citizenship–Omar Alghabra (Syrian), Faycal El-Khoury (Lebanon), Andy Fillmore (USA), Peter Fonseca (Portugal), Iqra Khalid(Pakistan), Michael Levitt (UK), Alexandra Mendes ((Portugal), Maryam Monsef (Afghanistan), Eva Nassif (Lebanon), Pablo Rodriguez (Argentina), Marwan Tabbara (Lebanon)

  • gfraser


    You should read the full text that you have provided. Front is closed but the Whalebone’s back door was open for fun and business.

    Politics has become a farce. Politicians, are for themselves, then their party and never for the country or their electorate.

    Biased reporters make a mockery of what was once ethical and non-biased journalism and give credence to Trump’s manic rants about ‘fake news’.


  • Larry

    Ray, I like your analysis

  • Stephen White

    It is a foregone conclusion that Quebec will be a showdown between the Bloc and the Liberals. The Tories will retain a handful of seats around Quebec City, and the NDP will likely get decimated. No surprise shere, just as no one should be surprised that Trudeau and Blanchet went into this debate with a natural advantage.

    I do so long for the days when debates were moderated by journalists with some stature and presence instead of fawning supplicants. Rosie Barton, Althia Raj, et. al. really lack the impartiality and gravitas one would expect, and they don’t really ask the tough questions that would enable voters to discern critical differences in platforms. Where are Peter Desbarats, Peter Trueman and Terry Milewski when we need them? Alas!

  • Fred Pritchard

    Ray, I still don’t understand why the American Scheer was invited to the debate? Doesn’t he have an insurance brokerage business to run in Sask?

  • Gary

    So Scheer is the tallest guy in the group photo. He has my vote. I like tall people, they look more Prime Ministerial. Too bad Mad Max wasn’t in it, I’d like to see how he stacks up, vertical-wise.

  • Ray Rivers

    Phillip thanks for your comment. I have always found the question asked to be less important than the answer given. Rabble is aptly named and Whalebone is apparently closed for renovations.


    • Phillip Wooster

      Ray, apparently you didn’t do your research too well. Whalebones is only closed at the front of the restaurant but the rear is still functioning–probably why the surreptitious meeting was held there.

    • Phillip Wooster

      I agree with your observation that the answers are more important and they are so much better when they can be prepared ahead of time–I bet Gerry is working hard this weekend. BTW, ask Hillary in the debate with Bernie, having the questions ahead of time is so much better.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Ray, I could have written this for you without even watching the debate–you are so predictable. However, you must really be looking forward to the Commission debates. Look at the lineup–ALL the moderators are UNIFOR members; ALL the moderators are from Central Canada, no regional representation, especially Western, is allowed; all the moderators are from left-leaning media sources, including the rabidly pro-Liberal Toronto Star, no right of centre moderators allowed. And just when we thought these debates might be fixed we get this revealed on the internet–Gerry Butts having dinner at Whalebones with Althia Raj, one of the debate moderators last weekend.