The leaders of B.C.’s three major political parties took part in a televised debate on Tuesday night ahead of the Oct. 24 provincial election.
The debate did not take place in front of a live audience and social distancing measures were observed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first part of the debate was dedicated to the pandemic. It was followed by a range of topics from real estate, the Site C dam project, green energy, and systemic racism.
Afterward, the leaders thanked each other for a respectful debate.
Read more: WATCH: B.C. leaders’ debate 2020
The night was not without some fireworks as there some testy exchanges, particularly between BC NDP Leader John Horgan and BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson. BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau also made an impression with some of her comments.
Here are some highlights from the 2020 Leaders’ debate.
‘A giant hot air balloon with not much in it’
Wilkinson referred to the CleanBC program, which aims to increase the use of clean and renewable energy, as a “sham,” saying greenhouse gas emissions have gone up every year on Horgan’s watch.
“Nothing has been accomplished,” he said. “And at the same time, the CleanBC plan doesn’t even have funding allocated to it for 25 per cent of the targets. So your CleanBC plan is a giant hot air balloon with not much in it.”
Horgan responded by saying the CleanBC was a trend-setter in North America.
“Mr. Wilkinson’s plan about being an energy powerhouse involves making sure that developer friends got power purchase agreements to drive up costs for hydro users,” he said.
“That’s not a plan to create a clean economy. That’s a plan to create money for speculators and your wealthy friends. We need a plan that works for everybody.”
‘You sold the land, man’
Wilkinson criticized the NDP for failing to build a second hospital in Surrey.
Horgan responded by saying the Liberals sold the land that was supposed to be home to a new hospital.
“You sold the land, man,” he said to Wilkinson.
Horgan has promised to complete a new Surrey hospital in Cloverdale.
‘We aren’t all equal. I wish we were’
The three leaders were at one point asked about the issue of diversity.
Horgan said he grew up not seeing colour, a statement he walked back after the debate, saying he misinterpreted the question.
Wilkinson noted he had worked as a doctor in Indigenous communities.
“I believe there’s a young — maybe not so young — man in Lillooet now who is named after me when I delivered that baby from his mother,” he said.
It was Furstenau who gave a nuanced response to the topics of unconscious bias and systemic racism.
“I think the moment for me that really hit it home was imagining being a mother and saying to my child, ‘If you’re approached by a policeman, don’t do anything, just put your hands up,'” she said.
“I can’t imagine being a mother and imagining that my child, my son might die because of the colour of his skin. We aren’t all equal. I wish we were, but we’re not in this province, in this country and around the world. People who are Black, people who are of colour are still experiencing systemic and personal racism on a daily basis.
“The three of us cannot reckon what that’s like because we are white. But we have to, in our roles, work to end that systemic racism and work to ensure that all mothers can let their children go out and not be worried that they’re going to be killed.”
‘Exceptionally poor taste’
Wilkinson responded to the controversy that arose over a video showing Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite making a joke at the expense of NDP candidate Bowinn Ma that was widely criticized as sexist. The joke in question involved Ma and Ralph Sultan, the retiring Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano.
“We have to move into a new world where those kinds of things are unacceptable,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t speak up at the time because it was a roast for an 87-year-old MLA who is retiring. But I think everyone on the call realized that it was totally inappropriate and it was really unacceptable.
“In retrospect, it would’ve been better if I went out on the call or immediately after the call and corrected the behaviour of Jane Thornthwaite. But we thought it’s time to move forward.”
‘Is the Site C Dam project your dumpster fire?’
Moderator Shachi Kurl noted that ICBC has been referred to as a “dumpster fire,” and asked Horgan if the Site C dam project is his party’s “dumpster fire.”
Horgan responded by saying the project was started by the BC Liberals, who worked to get it past the point of no return.
“It was the most difficult decision we had to make as a government in the first few weeks of our time in office,” he said.
“We brought in experts on both sides of the issue. We grappled with it and made the determination that $4 billion was already spent and we felt that taxpayers shouldn’t absorb that when we could have clean green energy into the future. So we proceeded with the project.”