Thursday, May 05, 2005

Debate helps James within the NDP too - but what happened to First Nations

VICTORIA - Some footnotes from the debate, starting with another reason Carole James' strong performance is significant..
It was assumed some NDP leadership candidates sat out the last race, reluctant to take on the job so soon after the 2001 debacle and confident that James would face some sort of leadership challenge after this election. In the same way, most voters doubted James would deliver on her promise of a more moderate NDP, in part because they doubted she could control the party.
The debate, and what looks like a reasonably good election result, give James a much firmer footing in the sometimes snakepit world of NDP politics, and makes any moves against her politically reckless. That bolsters her clout over the next four years, and may reassure some voters about the NDP's course.
Meanwhile, the post-debate official Liberal spin was that Gordon Campbell, rather than being defensive, was polite, and the unofficial spin was that he didn't want to be seen as the overbearing middle-aged guy lecturing two nice women.
It's the first leaders' debate I can recall where women were in the majority, and that did create a problem for Campbell. That's not necessarily because he's male, but because he's male, widely seen as uncaring, and already unpopular with women voters. It would be tough for him to get into a noisy clash without looking bad.
That shouldn't have ruled out a better performance. Quiet and polite can still be highly effective.
But if gender was a factor in the way the debate went, then we should be working harder to see more women in the legislature. The relative civility - think back to the federal leaders' debate for an alternative - was a tribute to all three leaders.
One of the most surprising aspects of the debate were the number of topics that didn't get a mention.
No leader really talked about First Nations and treaties, despite the importance of the issue to the province's future and the continued difficulty in moving to final agreements.
No leader talked about forestry, beyond the hot button issue of raw log exports. Parts of the industry are booming, Campbell could have noted. And all three leaders could have offered their plan to deal with the coming drastic timber shortage as a result of the pine beetle infestation, or their approach to the never-ending softwood trade battle.
No leader really talked specifically about economic development for B.C.'s regions, and a plan to reverse a steady exodus of young families and resource sector jobs.
The time was short, and six topics were preselected. But the lack of focus on the rest of B.C., the parts of the province outside Vancouver and its sprawl, was surprising.
It was also a little surprising to see that James chose not to raise the Liberals' dubious fund-raising methods that have been in the news for the past week. The approach helped her avoid being seen as too negative, but it meant a missed chance to highlight the NDP pledge to ban corporate and union donations.
Voters did get a first look at a new theme from Campbell, one that will play a role over the next two weeks. "On May the 17th, you'll choose B.C.'s future," he said is his generally flat closing speech. "You're not going to choose an opposition. You're going to elect a government."
The Liberal fear is that voters who simply want a stronger opposition, or to punish the Liberals over specific grievances, will end up accidentally electing an NDP government. They also recognize the value of planting that thought in voters' minds when there are so many close races.
It will take the next set of polls before we know how the debate really affected the race.
But it's already a win for James personally, and a boost for NDP workers. That's important. The party that has the best organization on the ground will win some close races.
Footnote: The TV ratings remind us that most voters will get their information about the debate secondhand. About 37 per cent of the people watching TV tuned in the debate at some point, almost four time as many as watched the runner-up, Jeopardy. But that still means most voters will rely on the media or friends in forming their opinion.


wstander said...

I agree that too many topics that should have been discussed weren't even touched upon. But I believe that is ENTIRELY the fault of the format, and the debaters should not be criticized at all. If they had veered off to raise their own points that would have required them to be non responsive to the questions that were asked and they would properly be criticized for doing that.

A one hour debate, with three debaters and six questioners precludes any opportunity to go beyond the questions asked. I thought the whole event was petty unexciting, although given the restrictions imposed by the format I was surprised it went as well as it did. But for next election, I hope they try harder to come up with a format that has the potential for some spontaneity, and the time to follow through on points of interest that may arise in the course of the debate.

Anonymous said...

Yes, not only First Nations----but how about the Billion dollar problem of the thousands of grow ops in this province.

Not one comment, not one question raised about what either party's platform would be on how to tackle the grow ops. There's thousands and thousands of them----I believe they are more widespread in BC than any other province.

In my income tax return dropped off last week I paid thousands of dollars in federal and provincial income tax. The criminals pay nothing, steal our hydro, and rack up taxpayer dollars to pay for putting out fires in their ops.

How an illegal industry whose profits are in the billions could not be mentioned once has to leave you wondering. Why?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person who wrote the first commment. No candidate could get much across in the time allowed. It was better than the federal debate and hoefully their handlers might change the federal way of doing things. I'm sure you might recall Kim Campbell whe she was asked specific things way back when. she indicated an election campaign is no time to discuss serious things or words to that effect. As for first nation issues, there is a treaty process, there were lots of policy papers by the previous government. They covered all the big issues, and immediatly after the last election those policy papers, just as Regional Advisory Committees minutes and the Regional Advisory committe themselves were cancelled and the policy papers disappeared from the web sites. TAC's lost funding as well. I worked on supporting the treaty system and represented non first nation occupiers for almost ten years.

Want to know more about them? Ask the present government why they are now not available.

Anonymous said...

I am the guy who obviously pushed the wrong button at the conclusion of my comments, which included the first nations issue not being discussed. And the fact that Regional Advisory Committees and Policy papers of the previous government sort of disappeared as the government changed. First nation issue are very complex and I doubt any candidate could explain things in an hour or less.
It was not my intention to be a unknown commenter. I did work for ten years as a RAC person, and even before RAC's were set up representing a few thousand people living on land set I lived there as well We were considered occupiers according to the Indian Act and see treaties as the honourable way to resolve such issues.

I wish I had kept all my copies of the policicy papers and in my wildest dreams didn't believe they could sort of fade away so quickly.
My name is
D. Love
email address is
Ex South Vancouver Island Regional Advisorty Committee member, and strong supporter of the Treaty process We must always remember there are three parties at the table. Third party input was and is needed in the process.
Thank you.

Don Quixote said...

Interesting. I'm always looking for more subject matter for my own blog. Good luck to you! :)