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Francophone CUPE members from Ottawa and Inkerman, N.B., gave us their views on how the four main party leaders performed during last night’s French-language debate.

A quick reaction poll from Ipsos-Reid done for Canwest Global ranked NDP Leader Jack Layton second after Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe on “best ideas and policies.” Layton received double (31 per cent) what Martin got (16 per cent).

Layton came out way on top when people were asked which leader they thought was most likeable (46 per cent), something echoed in CUPE member Odette Robichaud’s comments (below). And the NDP leader’s stock rose the sharpest, with a whopping 57 per cent having a better view of him after the debate.

The format of the debates is different this year, including a more structured environment that prevents the candidates from interrupting each other. This gives viewers a better chance to hear what the leaders have to say.

Tomorrow, Dec. 17, we will have members’ reactions to the English-language debate happening tonight.

Here are some comments from CUPE members:

Odette Robichaud, Inkerman, N.B.
Court stenographer and president, CUPE 1840

I wasn’t too impressed by any of the four leaders. They played word games, they were evasive, they were vague. I thought that nobody really stepped up to the plate. Martin talked about investing more money, but it was very general. His vision seems to be focused on P3s (public private partnerships). I didn’t feel any real commitment from him to protect public services. He spoke of working with public sector workers, but I only heard the word ‘union’ come out of his mouth once.

Jack Layton’s vision seems to be a bit more open. He seems to be closer to ordinary people, and more up on what’s going on with social services. I felt a little more commitment from him than from Martin. He also came across as warm and friendly.

Harper worries me. He talks about investing, but it’s to better privatize public services. He didn’t strike me as someone who’s close to people; he seemed uncomfortable . He wasn’t convinced, and he wasn’t convincing!

Gilles Duceppe has good ideas, but they’re of no use to you if you don’t live in Quebec.”

I would have liked to hear more about women and kids.”

Olivier Henchiri, 27, Ottawa, Ont.
Teaching assistant at University of Ottawa and vice-president, CUPE 2626

My general impression was that the debate only skimmed the surface. There wasn’t a lot of big news.

On the health question, I though Duceppe was the most precise. He talked about a plan administered by the provinces, of reducing bureaucracy in Ottawa, etc. Harper played word games. The others said practically nothing apart from, ‘yes, we want to protect health care’. They didn’t provide any details and it’s the details that are important. For example, they talked about essential services, but what does that mean? Does it mean they’re going to cut everything else? I was disappointed with Martin and Layton.

On the subject of child care, Duceppe talked about the provincial systems. Martin was the only one who said child care workers need to be paid more. Layton was vague. Harper wants to give people cash. He talks about tax cuts for companies to encourage them to create on-site daycares for their employees. That’s taking it pretty far. I thought it was strange.

Layton defended the public system and social services, but I don’t think he took a strong enough stand.”