I hope people were watching, because tonight's French-language leaders' debate was lively, passionate and substantive. After fighting sleep at about the half-way point in yesterday's English-language debate, tonight I found myself riveted.
This is in no small part due to Gilles Duceppe's fiery energy tonight, after being content to sit quietly on the side-lines for much of the previous night. But also, because Ignatieff really came across, and contrasted strongly against Harper, who himself seemed unsure of his French, and off his game generally. I found Harper did not seen strong tonight, which is the worst thing for the guy who is the current PM to convey.
Layton was taken off his game again by Duceppe's jabbing on the Bill 101 question. Harper's only really good moment was when he pointed at the two of them and asked the audience to imagine them working together in a coalition. That's not saying all that much.
Duceppe went whole-hog on his separatist cred tonight, and that is perhaps a sign he may be setting down some touchstones for a potential jump to provincial politics. He may be positioning himself to take the Parti-Québecois mantle from Pauline Marois, who appears weak going into a confidence vote among the party faithful in coming weeks.
Back to Ignatieff. He looked tough, secure and in charge. His French was generally good, and when it wasn't, his obvious passion made up for it. That is key for the Québec population, so good on him. He can ride this into a lead in coming days.
Again, that's if he plays his cards right.
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