News / Vancouver

Hostilities renewed during fiery B.C. leaders’ debate

Liberal Leader Christy Clark, NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver attack each other’s characters in televised election debate.

The Canadian Press

The nasty, personal tone of British Columbia’s campaign continued Wednesday evening during the election’s only televised leadership debate.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark, NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver spent the hour attacking each other’s characters during a debate high on tension but light on policy when the three contenders were allowed to interact.

Horgan – who had promised to be harder on the incumbent Liberals during this campaign than predecessor Adrian Dix’s failed run in 2013 – set the mark from the very first debate question on housing, accusing the Clark of ignoring the affordability crisis until it was too late.

“Why should anyone believe you now? You’re always quick with a smile and a promise, but you don’t deliver,” Horgan told Clark as the two began talking over one another.

Later in the debate, Horgan – who was asked by moderator Jennifer Burke if he had anger management issues – accused Clark of skipping question periods at the Legislature because “you’d rather watch the hockey game.”

His tact was clear, to try and harness voter frustration after 16 years of Liberal governance in B.C.

“I think it’s time that the BC Liberals’ neglect ends,” he concluded.

Clark fired back, accusing of Horgan of being absent on the latest issue to rock the campaign trail: the U.S.’s proposed 20 per cent tariff on softwood lumber.

She repeatedly brought up reports that some NDP staff are being paid for by the United Steelworkers union (and that the party takes large donations from the union) as its U.S. chapter backs President Donald Trump’s crippling plan.

“We all know why Mr. Horgan turtled when it came to softwood,” Clark said. “It’s because he’s taking his orders from the union in Pittsburgh that’s fighting for American jobs and standing beside Donald Trump when he calls our forest workers a disgrace.”

Weaver pitched the Green party as the civil alternative, saying the party is above the “fear mongering” seen from the Liberals and NDP in this election.

But he wasn’t above taking pot shots at his fellow debaters, particularly in heated exchanges with Horgan, who he tried to goad by asking, “Are you going to get mad at me too?”

Neither of the big parties, he said, deserves voters’ trust.

“We need to put people first, rather than the corporate donors [on Clark’s side] and the big union donors [on Horgan’s],” Weaver said. “It’s wrong.”

With attack ads proliferating across the airwaves and both radio and television debates featuring plenty of flashpoints, the May 9 election is shaping up to be one of the nastiest in B.C. history.

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