Sunday, May 03, 2009

James comes out ahead in the leaders' debate

The wise Norman Ruff says it takes several days to declare a winner in a leaders' debate.
For starters, not that many people are actually watching. Especially at 5 p.m. on a spring Sunday, sunny here in Victoria.
About 37 per cent of the people in the Lower Mainland who were watching TV watched the debate in 2005. That was in primetime, on a Tuesday.
At most, one in six British Columbians watched even part of this year's debate.
Yet over a few days, based on media coverage and what people are saying at work or the playground, a sense will emerge of how did well, and who stumbled.
A few minutes after the debate, I'm thinking the Liberals should be nervous about how that consensus will shake out.
Gordon Campbell sounded a little defensive and, I have to say, looked a little crazy.
That's only partly his fault. The set, out of a high school TV station, had a black backdrop that left his head and white shirt floating like a low-budget special effect.
The format was tough for the party in power. The debate was structured around videos of questions from people around the province. They were pointed.
And Carole James was focused in her response and skillful in posing questions that Campbell had a hard time answering.
Green Leader Jane Sterk didn't really seem that relevant - sort of a polite heckler, offering occasional insights that would appeal to most rational voters, except for the reality that no Green candidate had a chance of being elected.
Campbell's pitch seemed to be that we face scary times ahead and he's the best person to have in charge. "I know British Columbians are worried," he said. "But we can get through this."
James doesn't have enough experience - especially business experience - to lead the province through a tough patch, Campbell suggested.
It's a little iffy as an argument, not least because Campbell has been a politician for the last 25 years. His business experience is dated.
James' pitch had two elements. The Liberals had a chance and had not delivered, she said, failing to invest in communities in the good time.
And she had a better sense of the problems faced by most British Columbians, James claimed. Her answers referred to people or groups she had met with and their struggles.
It was well done and fit nicely with poll results that indicated James is seen as more in touch with the priorities of average British Columbians.
The Liberals should have been in good shape heading toward the May 12 election. They have avoided big mistakes.
But it hasn't turned out that way. The latest poll suggests a close race.
And Campbell didn't win over undecided voters during the debate. He was stiff, defensive - a politician.
James was a politician, too, of course. But she appeared to understand the problems of ordinary people, whoever they are.
None of this matters for the committed Liberal or NDP voters.
But for a lot of people - those who are undecided, or the million-plus British Columbians who aren't likely to vote - the debate becomes part of the decision-making process.
That's not good for Campbell. James batted him around on several issues, from corruption to seniors care.
The leaders each got a chance to close out the debate.
Campbell talked about the economy and leadership. Jobs are at stake, he said. He looked worried.
James offered a plan for addressing five public policy issues, from taxes to education. She seemed positive.
Mostly, it seemed sad that this was the only debate of this long campaign.
Just 60 minutes, in a four-week campaign, to hear from the party leaders.
It's a strange way to choose a government and set the course for the province for the next four years.
Footnote: The most interesting point in the debate might have been about crime. Campbell and James talked about more police. Sterk talked about legalization of some drugs to talk the profits away from criminal gangs. She sounded sensible; they sounded delusional.


seth said...

Sterk did a terrible job at what she was really there for - to siphon away enough fringe NDP votes to reelect Campbell. I note she pooh poohed the NDP's 10 bucks a hour in favor of her guaranteed annual income (estimated at $16 hr). That sure gave lie to her claim that she equally siphons LIberal votes. What BC Liberal supporter would vote for that as well as her legalizing Crack policy.

Note that James let Campbell get away with mentioning his environmental sellouts Da Gucci Suzuki and Weaver, without whacking him and Sterk with Alexandra's Morton's definitive quote

"I personally don't think the salmon are going to survive another Liberal term"

Lost a great opportunity there.

Finally not a word on BCHydro's 30 billion dollars in IPP
losses buying power it can't use and must sell for an 85% loss on the spot market. And the Campbell promises to double that. This gives Campbell the record for worst economic decision ever made by a Canadian politician and shows the BC Liberals couldn't manage a lemonade stand. Its a conspiracy damn it.

Norm Farrell said...

Paul, judging from the initial reporting, Campbell won't be hurt much by the Canwest Global news folks. They apparently concluded this was not a significant event despite the nearness of our election.

stephen elliott-buckley said...

CanWest/Global, about to go bankrupt or at least close The Province newspaper after the election, is the communications wing of the BC Liberal party.