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Liberal Dominque Anglade says the Radio-Canada format suits her style, while the CAQ’s François Legault promises to smile more.

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Former Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée observed on his blog that François Legault’s non-verbal language in the first televised debate reminded him of someone enduring an acupuncture session with an incompetent practitioner.

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Meanwhile, current PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon appears to have benefited from the debate in the form of a small jump in the polls — a big step for a candidate who started the campaign as a virtual unknown to many Quebecers.

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And so, in the best Quebec election tradition, the “debate about the debate” rages.

After clashing during last week’s TVA Face-à-Face, the leaders of the five main political parties get to go at each other again this week as time ticks down to the Oct. 3 general election.

This time the debate takes place on Radio-Canada on Thursday evening at 8 p.m., with veteran journalist Patrice Roy as host.

In a way, given the staid nature of the campaign, which has had no strong theme beyond a series of apologies by Coalition Avenir Québec Leader Legault, the pressure is even greater on the politicos, especially the opposition party leaders who need to impress voters.

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While a Léger poll Tuesday revealed Legault is still in the campaign driver’s seat despite what some have called a flat, overcautious TVA performance, the other main parties — Liberal, Québec solidaire, PQ and Conservatives — have barely moved in public opinion.

All are polling at about 16 per cent and will be looking to break the stalemate between themselves by standing out.

This is particularly true for Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, who in the first debate came across as steady and knowledgeable, but seemed to have been overshadowed by a feisty QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the focus of Legault’s barbs about “orange taxes.”

The result was polls after the debate suggested Quebecers thought Nadeau-Dubois won the TVA exercise, followed closely by St-Pierre Plamondon.

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A second poll released Wednesday indicated Quebecers would rather have Nadeau-Dubois as opposition leader than Anglade.

St-Pierre Plamondon emerged seemingly the happiest of the five, saying he senses a resurgence of interest in the PQ on the ground. His predecessor on the job, Lisée, who now is a part-time political pundit, told Radio-Canada he thinks St-Pierre Plamondon could be the next leader of the opposition.

“We are running the campaign we wanted to run,” St-Pierre Plamondon told reporters at a stop in Tadoussac. “It’s an authentic campaign on the subjects we consider essential for the future. We’re talking about language this morning; the environment, climate change, the dignity of seniors, the right of Quebecers to decide (their destiny) themselves.

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“I would not change one inch of our campaign.”

Anglade, for her part, felt obliged to up her game Tuesday, when she seemed to call on Quebecers to vote strategically to block the CAQ, though she denied that’s what she was doing. Such appeals are usually made a day or two before the vote and are a sign of desperation.

On Wednesday, Anglade told reporters the Radio-Canada format will give her more time to present her ideas and express her feelings.

You saw my style yesterday at the (Montreal) chamber of commerce,” Anglade said. “I don’t like going in with prepared notes, I like being able to speak from my heart, about what I believe in and what’s important.

“That’s what I’m going to look to do (Thursday) during the debate. I’m allowing myself to be who I am. You get into politics so everyone can be who they are, and contribute to their full potential. So in a way that’s what I want to show as the leader of a political party.”

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For Legault, it’s expected to be another night on the defensive. After the TVA debate, he said he found it tough to be up against four opponents at the same time. Some analysts have said he looked grumpy and not particularly interested in being there.

“I was good but I will be still better,” Legault said at a campaign stop Tuesday in Lac Mégantic.

He added he will try and smile more, “even when I am off camera.”

After the debate Legault said he was unaware he would appear on the split screen at the same time as his opponent was pestering him with questions. His statement was surprising because he has done these debates three times before.

The debate comes as Legault tries to refocus his lacklustre campaign — away from controversies that forced him to apologize twice, and more toward his strengths. He returned to saying he thinks the ballot box question Oct. 3 is really which party do voters trust to manage the public purse.

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Saying he already has a “dream team” of ministers, Legault openly speculated on the composition of his new cabinet should his party win. The one certainty is that Christian Dubé will stay in health.

Jesse Feith of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.

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