It takes couilles.

The Quebec Liberal Party, whose highest-ranking members seemed fraught with a sense of impending electoral doom during today’s alleged town hall meeting at Dawson College, should be ashamed of its transparently cynical theatrics.

Billed as a sort of powwow for the Anglophone community – here I would kindly ask Mr. Couillard, whose coeur is à gauche but whose portefeuille is à droite, to pardon my idiolect as I acclimate to the audacious progressivism of his ‘English-speaking Quebecers’ – the event was little more than a publicity stunt, a vapid hour-and-a-half of talking points followed by a half-hour of “questions” from members of the “public” and tyrannized throughout by a patronizing David Birnbaum, a political neophyte who would fare well moonlighting on talk radio.

It is perennially entertaining to hear politicos feign macroeconomic omnipotence (“we’ve generated 240,000 jobs”) while trotting out their most metaphorically inept platitudes (“we’ve taken care of the credit card bill”). Behold a sample of memorable doublespeak from the finance minister: on the one hand, we absolutely had to clean up our (mostly domestic) debt, because a “well-run household can’t rely on a credit card”; on the other hand, the major upshot of paying down our debt – aside from “not having to pay interest to Wall Street,” according to the premier – seems to be an upgraded credit rating, presumably so that we can… use the credit card.

By the end of this exercise in tragic comedy, actual members of the public in attendance were bleeding from their ears, their tympanic membranes bludgeoned by the party’s curiously deceitful haranguing of François Legault, a man who needs no misrepresenting. A few of them were visibly upset at having spent two hours witnessing a re-election sideshow, only to be covertly crowded out at two previously invisible microphones by a queue of shills (whom they exhorted, to my great satisfaction, to produce a “question, please!”).

What is both regrettable and infuriating is that Mr. Couillard strikes me as someone who might take exception to this kind of farce, for which a few well-intentioned citizens sacrificed the first pleasant Sunday afternoon in Montreal since October. They had hoped, it would seem, for a face-to-face with the people in their generous employ. (Tellingly, the affair was announced late; it began late; and it received little media attention.)

With the media expelled, the risk of holding a genuine consultation would have been slight. But such is the fearful, capricious behavior of a majority government polling second in an election year.