Impressions of the British Columbia political leaders' debate—the hits, misses, and questionable moments

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      Tonight, Twitter was ablaze with reactions to tonight's B.C. political leaders' debate.

      Here are some of my impressions.

      Shachi Kurl

      The moderator did an excellent job, letting the three know at the outset that she wasn't going to tolerate any nonsense.

      Unlike the U.S. debate moderators, she also cut off leaders when required. My only objection concerned her first question to the B.C. Green leader, Sonia Furstenau, which you can read about below.

      But Kurl more than made up for that with her question about what the leaders had personally done to come to terms with their white privilege. If nothing else, John Horgan and Andrew Wilkinson's answers revealed that they're somewhat disengaged from their hearts.

      But hey, we shouldn't be surprised. They're veteran politicians who've risen to the top of their parties through their wiles and their intellect—and not by being bleeding hearts like so many backbenchers in their business.

      Sonia Furstenau

      I mostly agree with Furstenau's views on the seriousness of the climate emergency we're all facing.

      As such, I was somewhat offended by the dismissive air with which Kurl questioned whether Furstenau was willing to jettison fossil-fuel projects that employ British Columbians. It was so MSM.

      However, I was disappointed that Furstenau didn't go for the kill and declare forthrightly that the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the LNG Canada project will likely become part of the more than $1 trillion in stranded North American fossil-fuel assets by the end of the decade.

      Furstenau could have cited research by Carbon Tracker and other organizations to drive this point home. But she seemed tentative. There was no mention of LNG prices in Asia. No talk of the magnitude of downstream carbon emissions from the Trans Mountain project. Instead, she mostly focused on the $6 billion in provincial LNG incentives supported by both the B.C. Liberals and NDP caucuses without contextualizing why this is so colossally stupid.

      Plus, she didn't link it to the $12-billion Site C dam, which everyone knows is being built precisely to advance the LNG industry.

      All in all, a missed opportunity.

      However, Furstenau improved as the debate continued. She did a solid job pointing out that there was no need for a provincial election—and what was lost as a result of Horgan trying to nail down a majority in the midst of a pandemic.

      She also eviscerated Wilkinson over his plan to eliminate the provincial sales tax for a year.

      And she was the only leader who truly tried to answer Kurl's question regarding what the leaders had done personally to come to terms with systemic discrimination against Blacks, people of colour, and Indigenous people.

      No doubt, viewers were captivated when she spoke from the heart about what it must be like for Black women who fear that their children would be killed by police.

      Furstenau also struck a chord when she discussed her feelings about the apprehension of Indigenous children. Acrosss the province, viewers could say to themselves: "She gets it."

      For many of those who stuck this debate out through 90 minutes, she will be seen as the winner. But not so for those who checked out of the show within the first half hour.

      John Horgan

      The NDP leader had his moments, particularly when he ripped B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson over his handling of housing. 

      Horgan also scored points when he accused Wilkinson of firing 10,000 people, largely women, to give a tax break to the wealthiest people.

      He smiled a lot, too, setting himself apart from the other two. But it wasn't his best night, particularly when Horgan said he didn't see people's skin colour.

      A colour-blind premier? Just because he played lacrosse with people of different races? Give me a break.

      Not surprisingly, Horgan went into immediate damage control afterward:

      As the front runner, Horgan was getting whacked from the two other leaders on the stage, neither of whom seemed overly eager to go for one another's jugular, except when it came to Wilkinson's sales-tax policy.

      Horgan withstood the barrage. But he didn't say very much that was new, which was surprising. An experienced politician should keep one zinger up his sleeve to deliver on debate night, if for no other reason than to get the most-played clip on future newscasts.

      His fans will see Horgan as the clear winner, in part because he seemed at the start to be the most comfortable in front of the camera.

      But as time wore on and as his opponents got under his skin, Premier Dad at times morphed into Sulk Horgan, which may not have endeared himself to undecided voters.

      Andrew Wilkinson

      The B.C. Liberal leader is being portrayed as a horrible ogre in his opponents' advertising. But on TV, Wilkinson acted quite subdued and at times, quite earnest.

      As a result, he may have gone some way toward countering the NDP's framing, notwithstanding his previous gaffes, which were so ably highlighted by Kurl.

      Wilkinson's best moments came when he attacked Horgan as an untrustworthy politician who wants to divide British Columbians.

      He also gave a passable defence of his crazy idea to eliminate the provincial sales tax for a year, though Furstenau still managed to kill him on this point.

      And he seemed to befuddle Horgan by pointing out that the NDP built zero hospitals in their 13 years in power since 1991.

      Wilkinson's worst moment was his decision to throw one of his candidates, Jane Thornthwaite, under the bus for her comments about NDP incumbent Bowinn Ma rather than offering any deep reflections on what he learned from that blunder.

      He also refused to answer Kurl's question in the present about what he's personally done to come to terms with his white privilege. Instead, he told another tale about what it was like being a doctor many years ago, this time delivering a child who was Indigenous.

      As media philosopher Marshall McLuhan used to say, TV is a cool medium. And Wilkinson is a fairly frosty fellow, making for a pretty good mix.

      As a result, don't be surprised if his admirers on the right claim that this softer, gentler Andy was the hands-down winner.

      Video: Watch the leaders' debate and draw your own conclusions.