Monday, May 04, 2009

Leaders hope to sway voters nine days before Election Day

British Columbia’s three major party leaders took to the province’s television sets on Sunday afternoon, with a one hour leaders debate that reflects the daily barbs that have come to feature the province’s Legislature of late.

Both Carole James and Gordon Campbell outlined their positions and took their shots at each other and the perceptions about each other, leaving Green Party leader Jane Sterk to languish on the sidelines for most of the afternoon complaining of once again being overlooked and marginalized.

And that did seem to be the strategy of the two main party leaders, preferring to challenge each other’s core beliefs and political strategies while all but ignoring the Green party leader and her thoughts on the issues.

Budget concerns, minimum wage hesitations on the part of the Liberals and a constant hammering away on the idea that the NDP leader perhaps wasn’t ready to lead (which seems to be the Liberal slogan of late and at times appeared to be a tad condescending and arrogant) took up a good portion of the debate time, which featured questions from ordinary British Columbians as well as the traditional opening and closing statements.

The NDP leader seemed to repatriate the small towns and communities of the Interior and north during the debate, areas that the Liberals once referred to as the Heartland, but have since seemed to let carry the burdens of economic distress on their own, James offered up a rural infrastructure program to address their needs, a move that may find favour in many struggling communities outside of the Metropolitan Vancouver and Victoria areas. She particularly scored a point or two, when she chastised the Premier for his observation that the restarting of the Mackenzie mill by Canfor is a sign that the economy in the forest industry is improving, a theory not universally shared by many in the province.

Interestingly enough, despite much in the way of interest in educational matters leading up to the debate, the education issue didn't seem to gain a lot of traction during the hour long presentation, nor did health care get as much of an airing as many thought might have been provided.

Green leader Sterk tried to draw parallels to the crime surge in BC to the province's drug laws, though there was little interest from the other two leaders in taking on that aspect of the debate on the Green party terms.

Overall, there was no knockout punch during the debate, and no surprise revelations that might lead to a serious stumble by any of the leaders and not much more than the continuation of the three parties talking points of the last few weeks and nothing that could not be divined by the onslaught of television and radio commercials of the last couple of weeks.

The debate while testy at times, remained for the most part civil, though as Ms. Sterk pointed out, left her rather invisible despite her best efforts on behalf of her party.

The Sunday night televised event was only the second of the head to head discussions for the three leaders who previously had taken part in a radio debate hosted by CKNW’s Bill Good Show.

The voting public will assess the performances and render a judgment on May 12, with the most recent polls suggesting that the outcome may be much closer than first anticipated, as the NDP has closed the gap and in some polls in fact taken a small lead with nine days to go.

Leaving the final week and a bit of the campaign in the hands of the party operatives to try and decide what may be the best strategy to sway uncommitted voters to their candidate and their leader.

24 Hours Vancouver-- All smiles

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