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The candidates took off the gloves at the Chan Centre

The narrative coming into the first and only B.C. leaders debate before the October 26 October 24 provincial election was fairly clear. As with any campaign where one party is dominating early polls, the conventional wisdom was that BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson would have to land a knockout (or at least some gut punches) on the NDP’s John Horgan.

That didn’t seem to happen, but we did get some feisty exchanges that livened up the 90-minute affair.

Here are our winners and losers from last night at UBC’s Chan Centre.

Winner: Moderator Shachi Kurl

If they ever do another U.S. presidential debate, Angus Reid Institute president Shachi Kurl should very much be considered. Perhaps in response to the shitshow we saw down south, Kurl was laser-focused on making sure the candidates gave each other time to respond and didn’t go over their own allotted time.

She also didn’t hesitate to call out the leaders when they failed to adequately answer questions, giving them an extra 10 seconds to do so. 

It was pretty evident that Kurl was the biggest winner onstage.

Loser: BIPOC BCers

Both John Horgan (“I don’t see colour”) and Andrew Wilkinson (“a non-white person named their baby after me once”) failed to adequately address their white privilege when asked about their personal reflections in the wake of widespread protests against racial inequality.

In contrast, BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau spoke elegantly on the issue, rightly reminding the audience that “we aren’t all equal. I wish we were, but we’re not.”

Horgan’s team clearly agreed that his take on the matter was a brutal look for the party and had the leader immediately issue a statement.

Winner: Sonia Furstenau

Speaking of Furstenau, this was her first exposure to many British Columbians, and the Cowichan Valley MLA performed well. She came across as thoughtful, measured and calm, even when she was putting the boots to Horgan for calling a snap election.

Furstenau still has her work cut out trying to build on the Green Party’s most successful election in its history as a relative unknown, but she appeared to make some inroads here.

Loser: Claiming you won the debate

When a party releases a statement that they “won” a debate with no evidence or sources corroborating the information, it’s a bad look. It’s really almost Trumpian. And yet…

At least the NDP had the sense to put a source on their celebratory tweet.

Winner: Short-term fixes

We heard a lot about a $1,000 rebate and a PST break for British Columbians. And granted, in a pandemic, it’s important to provide relief to people who are suffering. But when the main two political parties try to win news headlines with those Band-Aids, it leaves less space for some other pressing problems. 

Loser: Longer-term issues

That was an obvious segue, we know, but some of the biggest issues we have in B.C. right now—housing, climate change, affordability—were essentially papered over by the two main parties. The Liberal and NDP leaders tried to blame each other for what’s been done in the past on these files (Wilkinson seemingly suggesting that homelessness has only been a problem under the NDP was a hilariously out-of-touch move), but neither really offered a way forward.

Maybe a monthlong campaign during a pandemic isn’t the place for those things. Oh well.