Tuesday marks the biggest night of the election campaign for the leaders of B.C’s three main political parties.
The Liberals’ Andrew Wilkinson, Sonia Furstenau of the Green Party and NDP incumbent premier John Horgan will go head to head in a 90 minute live, televised debate tonight at 6:30 p.m. PDT.
“It is an opportunity for voters to get to know the candidates as people,” said David Black, who teaches political communication at Royal Roads University. “This is the closest that any voter is going to come to meeting a new leader on their doorstep, especially in a pandemic.”
Heading into the debate, a Leger poll released this morning shows the NDP well ahead. Horgan has the lead, with the support of 50 per cent of those surveyed. The Liberals are following at 35 per cent and the Green Party with 12 per cent.
“In such a campaign, a debate is a place of radical uncertainty and thereby potential to change things in a phrase, in a line, in a moment gone wrong,” Black said.
Although most debates end in draws, he noted, there’s always potential to shift perspectives and sway votes. But Liberal leader Wilkinson is going in with a disadvantage, after a video leaked this weekend showing an incumbent MLA making sexist remarks about an NDP candidate.
“They need to make this debate a clear win. They need to make it meaningful. They need to change the momentum and the controversy… is going to make that more difficult,” said Black. “There’s going to be some explaining that needs to be done, and there’s going to be some embarrassments that [are] going to be confessed in this debate.”
This controversy, however, reduces the vulnerability of Horgan, he said.
“The question for Horgan that was going to be difficult to answer was, why are we having an election that we didn’t need to have in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic?” he said.
The call for a snap election is still a topic likely to come up — and one that will be central to the debate.
“Sonia Furstenau from the Greens has been effective in shredding John Horgan’s credibility,” said Rob Shaw, legislative columnist for the Vancouver Sun. “The issue of: Why are we having a snap election? Can you trust John Horgan? I think that strategy will be best for her.”
Shaw is one of the panellists for #BCPoli Live, a special, interactive program on CHEK that provides analysis of the election.
“We’re going to be providing instant analysis of the debate tonight,” Shaw said. “Who won, who lost, the gains and the setbacks the candidates face in front of the cameras in the biggest moment of the provincial election campaign.”
It will all come down to whether the leaders are able to convey their messages, Black added.
The leaders will join each other on stage at 6:30 p.m., followed by CHEK’s post-debate analysis on #BCPoli Live at 8 p.m.