The best and worst from B.C.'s televised debate on electoral reform

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      Thanks to YouTube, I was able to go out last night and watch the televised debate on proportional representation.

      I also heard parts of Premier John Horgan and B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson's arguments on radio.

      While many British Columbians were likely cringing at the sight and sound of two aging white men bickering with one another, this event had its moments.

      Here are my highlights and lowlights.

      Best soundbite of the night

      Most people don't watch these types of debates, especially if there's a hockey game on at the same time.

      However, they will see the most memorable quotes replayed again and again in subsequent media coverage.

      On this front, Horgan was the clear winner when he told Wilkinson: "If you were woke, you would know that pro rep is lit."

      It seemed like a clear pitch at younger voters, who are far more supportive of pro rep than those over 65.

      Horgan's line already given rise to gifs on social media.

      Global B.C.'s Richard Zussman, on the other hand, had this to say.

      Fortunately, broadcast veteran Shane Woodford and PR advocate Lesli Boldt were able to clear up the confusion.

      Thanks guys. Now I truly feel lit.

      Lynda Steele (left) is used to the glare of TV lights, but Stephen Quinn has spent most of his broadcasting career in radio.
      CBC screen shot

      Best TV makeover

      Wilkinson toned down his buttoned-down corporate image by not wearing a tie. And that's probably the first time in B.C. history that a leader showed up for one of these provincially broadcast debates without one.

      But that was small potatoes compared to the remaking of one of the moderators.

      CBC's Stephen Quinn showed up in a snazzy, jelled haircut just right for the modern age. He also ditched the hipster beard.

      What ever happened to that rumpled early-morning radio host that his fans all know and love?

      It was the greatest broadcast transformation since Much Music's mulleted veejay J.D. Roberts morphed into Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts.

      No, this is not a photo of a younger Lynda Steele and Stephen Quinn—it's J.D. Roberts, in his heyday, alongside fellow MuchMusic veejay Jeanne Beker.

      Best reason for creating a B.C. debate commission

      Leaders debates are fraught with problems, in part because the conditions are sometimes determined through negotiations with political parties.

      The federal government has tried to create some consistency through an independent, nonpartisan debates commission, which will be headed by former governor general David Johnston.

      It's designed to bring sanity to the airwaves because the broadcasters can no longer be trusted to properly oversee these events.

      After watching last night's PR debate, I felt that Parliament needs to give Johnston authority over provincial debates, too.

      That's because this one was a mess. Wilkinson, in particular, was repeatedly interrupting Horgan, but part of the problem was the format.

      Leaders would speak for 45 seconds and then there would be two minutes of two guys talking over one another. It was especially brutal on radio.

      Here are just a few of the responses on social media:

      Given how this debate played out, something has to change before the next provincial election. Otherwise, the leaders debate will get lousy ratings.

      Andrew Wilkinson demonstrated during the debate how litigators often behave in courtrooms.
      CBC screen shot

      Best closing argument

      Wilkinson's comparison of Horgan to a used-car dealer was very effective. The B.C. Liberal leader claimed that the premier was asking for a cheque and then he would decide which car the voters were going to receive.

      While many pundits are focusing on Wilkinson's chippy debating tactics, his goal was to sow doubt about PR. Throughout the evening, he kept asking questions that Horgan couldn't answer.

      The former corporate litigator's closing argument may have sealed the deal for anyone in the audience who lasted to the end and who was genuinely interested in knowing how PR will actually function. 

      In comparison, Horgan's closer was relatively forgettable.

      Then again, Horgan's not an experienced courtroom lawyer with years of experience in making final presentations before a jury.

      Best whopper

      Again, the prize goes to Wilkinson, this time for conveying the impression that there was little public consultation before the provincial government proceeded with the referendum on electoral reform.

      As PR lovers were quick to point out, around 90,000 people were consulted for their views. That's a great deal more than the number who participated in a long-forgotten Citizens' Assembly, which Wilkinson kept trumpeting through the evening.

      Had the B.C. Liberals embraced first past the post in their leadership race, Dianne Watts would have been Andrew Wilkinson's boss.

      Best recovery

      The B.C. Liberals didn't use first-past-the-post in their own leadership race. Had this been in place, Wilkinson wouldn't be the leader and Horgan would have been squaring off against the runner-up, Dianne Watts.

      But Horgan failed to mention this during the debate.

      However, Horgan did raise this point in his post-debate discussion with reporters, ensuring that it didn't go entirely unnoticed.