With B.C.’s May 9 provincial election fast approaching, Wednesday night’s candidates’ debate had the opportunity to be the deciding factor for voters still split down the middle.
With the dust settling on the debate, political columnist with The Province Mike Smyth and legislative columnist with The Vancouver Sun Rob Shaw joined Jon McComb to talk about what last night could mean for the rest of the campaign.
LISTEN to the full panel discussion:
Speaking generally Shaw says each candidate held their own admirably, to the point that they could each claim to have “won” the debate.
He says it’s especially impressive coming from Liberal leader Christy Clark, who came in with the most to lose.
According to Shaw, Clark ably shook off “16 years of Liberal baggage.”
“She managed to smile, pivot, deliver her lines… it reminded me of the Christy Clark of the last election.”
A comparison Clark was no doubt hoping to draw, seeing how she came from behind in polls to beat previous NDP leader Adrian Dix back in 2013, thanks in large part to strong showings in similar debates.
On the other hand, Smyth wasn’t quite willing to draw the comparison.
He says that while the Liberals’ LNG and economy focused platform may have worked well for them four years ago, it’s still their biggest talking point, and that talking point is losing its effectiveness.
Where both Shaw and Smyth do agree, however, is on the strength of Greens leader Andrew Weaver’s performance.
Smyth says compared to his meek performance in the first debate two weeks ago, it was shocking how quickly Weaver came out swinging.
“Last night, all of a sudden, he comes out of his shell just hell-bent for leather, attacking everybody.”
In fact, both say last night’s debate solidified the Greens as a party their opponents, particularly the NDP, shouldn’t underestimate.
Shaw says that strong showing from the Greens could stand a legitimate threat to the NDP.
“The right wing is sewn down solid by the Liberals, but there’s a split on the left.”
And if that momentum continues to the polls, it could cost the NDP more than just a debate.
“So the Greens win a couple, it’s not that big of a deal. But it could cost the NDP their chance to form government,” adds Shaw.
Both columnists also gave NDP leader John Horgan credit for staying cool, after a heated exchange between himself and Clark in the last debate.
Smyth says both Clark and Weaver clearly made a conscious effort to get under his skin.
“They wanted him to morph into this Hulk Horgan character like last week.”
READ MORE: Leaders weigh in on their debate performance
However, Horgan didn’t rise to the bait, staying – for the most part – cool and collected.
Shaw says that ability to adapt under pressure is what’s made the difference thus far in the campaign, with recent polls showing the NDP ahead by nearly 20 points.
It’s an ability that he thinks Clark should be exhibiting more of.
“The greatest weapon the Liberals have is her authenticity, and she’s reading her notes. Which tells me the Liberal campaign is micromanaging the points she has to hit, and it’s not quite what she would actually be saying.”
Shaw says that lack of comfort is a sign of how close the race still is.
“It is a tall order here for the NDP to win this election, but it is competitive, it is close, and the Liberals should certainly be worried about it.”
With files from Tristan Martin-Woodhouse