British Columbia

B.C.'s political leaders engage in chippy radio debate in home stretch of campaign

A second debate between the leaders of B.C.’s main political parties featured many more pointed barbs between John Horgan and Andrew Wilkinson, but few new commitments or insights.

Horgan and Wilkinson spar over previous Liberal government, Furstenau challenges NDP leader over snap election

From left, Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, NDP Leader John Horgan and Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 during campaign stops. The three leaders sparred in a conference call debate aired live on radio Thursday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

A second debate between the leaders of B.C.'s main political parties featured many more pointed barbs between John Horgan and Andrew Wilkinson, but few new commitments or insights.

"You hide under your bed when your candidates do ridiculous things," said B.C. NDP leader Horgan to Wilkinson at one point, during an hour-long debate in which he called the B.C. Liberal leader "dude," "buddy" and "man" at different points. 

For his part, Wilkinson told Horgan "it's hard to point to anything you've accomplished in the past three years," one of several exchanges where the two leaders talked over one another. 

B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau stayed out of the majority of the heated exchanges, but continued to question Horgan over the need for a snap election, which Horgan claimed was required due to disagreements with her party.

"Total obedience is not something that's good for governance … and it's not something that's expected in a confidence and supply agreement," she said, referring to the arrangement between the NDP and Greens that has kept Horgan's minority government in power since 2017. 

The debate aired on radio station CKNW, with the leaders dialled in from their respective headquarters through a video conference call.  

COVID-19 recovery proposals 

Much of the debate focused on policy choices stemming from COVID-19, including the reopening of schools, deficit spending and the province's economic recovery plan. 

Furstenau argued that the NDP promise of a $1,000 cheque for lower- and middle-income families was money that could be better put to education, while Wilkinson argued the money for tourism businesses could have been delivered sooner had the government not waited until days before the election to announce it. 

"You told us the money went out the door, and that's just not true," said Wilkinson. 

Horgan and Wilkinson also argued over economic policies, with the NDP leader saying Liberal cuts nearly 20 years ago, when the party took office under Gordon Campbell, could be tied to current problems. 

"People want to get through the pandemic, regular people, the people you fired back in 2001, they want to get back into the economy," he said.

"Name-calling will not help, programs and empathy will."

Wilkinson argued that the NDP's plan contained "no relief" for small businesses and implied he cared more about people because the Liberals increased spending on health from $8 billion to $23 billion.

Both Horgan and Wilkinson then made several false statements about MSP premiums — Wilkinson falsely claiming the basic rate hadn't doubled under the Liberals, Horgan falsely claiming the highest and lowest income earners all paid the same amount.

The debate took place on the same day that advanced voting began across B.C. 

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