By Andrew Mitchell
To hear the party leaders talk, all three of them won Tuesday nightÕs televised debate, but viewers and pundits have their own opinions.
While a clear winner is never decided, it quickly became a battle of girls against boys as both Green Party leader Adriane Carr and NDP leader Carole James attacked Liberal Gordon Campbell for his record of the past five years.
Campbell declined to defend himself, instead referring voters to the partyÕs economic record. In fact, the need to have a strong economy dominated all other aspects of CampbellÕs debate.
Carr did a good job establishing the Green Party as centrists Ñ strong on economic policy as well as the environment and social causes.
Carole James stuck to the NDP script, which was that CampbellÕs government has broken promises to voters, cut funding to programs, and is partial to backroom dealing.
As the incumbent, Campbell clearly recognized that he would have a lot to answer for after four busy and often controversial years in office, and to his credit he admitted that not everything has gone smoothly. Still he maintained that the Liberal Party has for the most part accomplished its goals for the first term, that the province is stronger, and that his vision for the next term was feasible.
Whether the debate was productive for any of the candidates has yet to be seen, but it did accomplish three important things:
Campbell will likely win another term with a majority government, but came away from the debate with the understanding that British Columbians have priorities other than a strong economy;
James established herself as a strong opposition candidate, while restoring the votersÕ shaken faith in the NDP and its commitment to social issues;
Carr proved that she should at least have the opportunity to win her seat in the Powell River-Sunshine Coast Riding, and that she would be an asset in the middle ground between the NDP and Liberals.
It should be noted that the Vancouver Sun did give top marks to Carole James for her outfit.
What the polls sayÉ
A sample of 652 respondents that watched the debate found that neither candidate made significant gains. Thirty-one per cent of respondents thought James won, 23 per cent gave the win to Campbell and 12 per cent gave it to Adriane Carr. Still, the largest number, 31 per cent, said nobody won the debate.