An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE FIRST leaders’ debate was a doozy — full of both entertainment and information. As always, there’s the question of who won.
The answer is Christy Clark, with John Horgan second and Andrew Weaver bringing up the rear.
If you didn’t hear it — the debate was broadcast on Vancouver radio station News 1130 on Thursday morning — you will have the clear impression that Horgan came across as angry and rude throughout the hour and a half.
That’s because the media have a habit of focusing on brief moments of style instead of going deep on substance. Horgan, and to a lesser extent Weaver, were relentless on fact-checking Clark’s claims about such things as debt, seniors’ care, transit, and the costs of life in British Columbia.
As a result, Clark was on the defensive much of the time, becoming repetitive, talking frequently about “the kids” and harking back to the bad old days of the 1990s when the NDP under Glen Clark were in power.
But Horgan opened himself up to observations about his aggressiveness, too frequently talking over Clark as she defended the Liberal record. In perhaps the most famous moment of the debate, Clark touched Horgan on the arm and said, “Calm down, John.”
He could have simply ignored it. Instead, he complained, and provided the Liberals with a too-good-to-resist hashtag — #calmdownJohn, which in itself provided some fodder for follow-up media reports.
For most of the debate, Horgan was effective, to the point that moderator Bill Good agreed with him several times. But those moments of indignation did him in.
To put it another way, Horgan may have won the battle but he lost the war.
Most voters in the province didn’t hear the debate, or watch the television version later. What they know is based on the media focus on his interruptions, impatience, occasional flashes of testiness, and his complaints to Good that Clark was getting more microphone time than he was.
Clark came out the winner because Horgan handed it to her — not in substance, but in style.