Major party leaders set to battle for votes in TV debate
Last Updated: Sunday, May 3, 2009 | 1:16 PM PT
It's the only time in the campaign British Columbia's major party leaders will have a chance to go toe to toe in a televised debate, and all three hope a good performance could make a big difference when voters go to the polls on May 12.
B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, Carole James of the B.C. NDP and Jane Sterk of the Green Party of B.C. will do their best to woo undecided voters in the one-hour debate, which airs live at 5 p.m. PT on CBC Television, CBC Radio One and on the internet at CBC.ca.
The three met in a 90-minute radio debate 10 days ago.
Once the debate ends candidates competing in 85 ridings will have eight more days to persuade voters to cast ballots in their favour when they go to the polls.
At dissolution of the legislature, the Liberals held 45 seats to the NDP's 34, but a redistribution of electoral boundaries has increased the number of seats up for grabs this time to 85.
While the leaders spent much of Saturday sharpening their talking points for Sunday night's confrontation, at least one expert thinks the scheduling of the debate will lessen its impact.
"The timing of 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is very odd," said Doug McArthur, a public policy professor at Simon Fraser University. "I can't help but think that will reduce the degree to which this will be effective and make much difference."
McArthur suggested the campaign so far had been lacklustre: "They really haven't got a strong focus on what their main appeal to the voters is."
When the leaders are in front of the cameras they will, as usual, be "very careful" to try to make sure they don't make a statement that would "turn the direction away from them," McArthur said.
Sterk may have the "best opportunity, perhaps" but her "difficulty" is that during the past three years voters have focused their attention primarily on the two main parties, McArthur said. "I think it's really the two major parties that have the challenge."With files from The Canadian Press