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.
Perception is everything in politics, and according to the poll, 52 per cent of viewers thought Carr improved, 42 per cent said James improved, and 17 per cent said Campbell improved.
Overall, 44 per cent still thought Campbell would make the best premier, compared to 38 per cent for James and 12 per cent for Carr. ThatÕs a significant increase for Carr.
The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Independent candidate busted
Independent candidate Ingmar Lee was arrested prior to the televised debate on Tuesday in Victoria.
Lee was not invited to the meeting, although he is running for the Victoria-Beacon Hill riding against NDP leader Carole James.
Lee was reportedly arrested for disturbing the peace and shouting insults at the Liberal leader. He also did not pay for a ticket to the event.
ÒThis is what it takes,Ó he told CBC reporters. ÒYou have to do stunts to get your piece on the corporate media in this election. This election is a joke unless people are freely able to participate in democratic debates.Ó
Fundraising tactics becoming an issue
The NDP Party has kept up its attacks on Liberal fundraising tactics.
Last week the NDP discovered that the B.C. Liberal Party has charged local government officials to attend events hosted by provincial officials and the money has gone to the Liberal party. The Liberals promptly returned the money, while the head of the riding association that organized the event resigned.
This week it was discovered that charities had illegally donated thousands to the campaign, which the Liberals once again promised to return.
They also suggested that an inquiry should be held on all partiesÕ fundraising to ensure that all parties were in compliance with the Elections Act.
The Liberal and NDP parties were slammed for using an annual memorial service for workers killed on the job as a campaigning opportunity. Although parties denied they were there to campaign, NDP leader Carole James attended a memorial service near Victoria, while the Liberals organized a convoy of trucks and heavy equipment in Williams Lake.
Since 2001, some 559 workers have died in workplace accidents in the province.
Marijuana Party candidate campaigns from pokey
In what has to be a first in Canadian politics, Marijuana Party candidate Donald Briere is campaigning for the Surrey-Tynehead riding from a very unusual location Ñ in jail at AbbotsfordÕs Pacific Institution, where he is currently serving a sentence for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, in connection with the Da Kine coffee shop.
Briere ran in the same riding in 2001, earning just two per cent of the vote.