DURING THE B.C. ELECTION LEADERS DEBATE of 1991, NDP leader Mike Harcourt and Social Credit leader Rita Johnson were going at each other hammer and tongs.
A young Gordon Wilson, leader of the third-party BC Liberals, wasn’t expected to make any inroads but he surprised everyone when he declared, “This reminds me of the legislature and here’s a classic example of why nothing ever gets done in British Columbia.”
It was what we call a defining moment.
At Monday night’s federal leaders’ debate, it was déjà vu all over again. Listening to Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer go at each other, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh remarked, “What we have here is Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer arguing about who is worse for Canada.”
It could have been straight out of Gordon Wilson’s playbook. But then Singh one-upped himself when he said, again of Trudeau and Scheer, “You don’t need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny,” a reference to their records on climate change action.
I’d bet a decaf latte those lines were dreamed up by some campaign war room spin doctor who happened to know about Wilson’s famous moment.
Trudeau, on the other hand, started strong and leveled out, while Scheer began sounding nasty and self-righteous and got his footing as the night wore on.
As for the moderators, they ranged from the tough and polished Rosemary Barton of CBC, and the absolutely terrible Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star. And the format was a disaster.
Where does all of this leave us?
Singh’s performance last night was enough to give him the edge in the debate. Not enough to make any difference in the outcome Oct. 21, but maybe enough to save his job.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.