This past Wednesday I attended my local riding’s all-candidate’s debate at UBC, hosted by the Professor Emeritus Association. All of our candidates were in attendance, including incumbent Liberal Joyce Murray, NDP Victor Elkins, Green Laura-Leah Shaw, and Conservative Deborah Meredith. The debate was 2 hours, with opening and closing statements from each candidate and then all questions from the floor. A number of people, including myself, tweeted the event, and you can find that conversation (as well as later debates) under #quadradb8.
Here’s a summary of my thoughts in a more fleshed out way.
The clear “loser” of the night was Meredith. She was spiteful and derisive to the audience, and while I thought her opening speech was among the best presented (she was the only candidate to stand and reject the microphone), she showed far too much disdain. Granted, the audience repeatedly heckled her, especially when they cheered for her reference to Ms. Murray’s North shore tanker ban private member’s bill (which she saw as reckless); however, responding to a question about contempt with “well you weren’t going to vote for me, so I’m not going to answer,” is neither civil nor parliamentary (although in the modern Question Period climate, she may fit right in).
I think Murray performed best, although Elkins and Shaw both represented their constituents well. Elkins’ opening statement was short, only taking maybe one of his allotted five minutes and Shaw disturbed me with her party’s (fairly standard) distrust of modern science.
This distrust was evident after the first question, which asked what the federal government was doing to monitor radiation levels in our water after the Fukushima meltdown. Shaw responded about how she neither trusts nuclear power (the standard Green Party platform), nor even our drinking water. She even stated that she went as far as to advise one of her colleagues (it may have been a family member) to buy and drink only bottled water while she was breast-feeding. It’s worth noting that at least 25% of bottled water is simply rebottled tap water.
Finally, the most frustrating thing about the debate was likely the poor moderation. While Meredith was eventually cut off as her introduction rolled passed the five-minute mark, the audience began heckling until she sat down. Further, the final questioner began rambling about the long list of grievances with the Conservative government and, while I am sympathetic to her, arguably slandered both the Prime Minister and other Conservative candidates. Heckling of this questioner likely commenced from the Conservative supporters in the audience (who took exception to the characterizations of Harper), but quickly spread as people got into a “get on with it” mood. Nevertheless, our steadfast moderator simply held the mic until she had her say and then turned it over to whichever candidate wanted to respond first (note: there was no formal order of responses, simply whoever wanted to jump in did).
All-in-all, I was glad to see a lot of younger faces at the debate. There were many partisan Liberals there (with Murray signs in the back) and a couple of Conservatives and NDPs (including BC Point-Grey byelection NDP candidate David Eby). I still left somewhat disappointed that no speaker really caught my interest, the way the debates I attended in 2008 did. It was especially frustrating to see the Conservative contempt incarnate and directed at actual voters. Someone needs to tell Ms. Meredith that when answer a pointed question in a debate like this, you’re not attempting to sway the questioner, but merely trying to influence everyone else in the audience.
I now understand what inspired Baba Brinkman’s “Dote Vote for Mean People”.