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Leaders stick to scripts in first debate

The leaders of the B.C. Liberals, B.C. New Democrats and B.C. Green Party stuck to their party scripts during the first of two broadcast debates scheduled for this provincial election.

Green leader Jane Sterk sat in the centre, with Premier Gordon Campbell on her right and NDP Leader Carole James on her left in the studio of Vancouver radio station CKNW.

Premier Campbell appealed to voters to stick with his Liberals, who he said have overseen eight years of building the B.C. economy to one of the best on the continent. He credited his Liberals for bringing B.C. from a have-not province to the best economy in North America.

NDP Leader Carole James said the election is about what British Columbians want for their own and their families' futures. She said she's hearing from forestry workers who are angry that their industry has been ignored, and seniors who feel abandoned.

And Green Leader Jane Sterk took a shot at the behaviour and negativity of both leaders, promising that a Green MLA would help restore "civility" to the B.C. legislature.

In a press scrum held after the 90-minute debate, the NDP's James bristled at accusations that her party's platform could drive the province into debt. James said the NDP platform is fully costed and fiscally responsible and her party would meet its goals by targeting waste such as cutting government ads and rolling back wage increases to top mandarins.

Campbell told the press that the NDP platform will cost thousands of jobs and his party is the best able to see B-C through the recession. Campbell said the Liberals knew the first quarter of 2009 would be tough but the party's economic strategy is working, with his government creating more jobs than any other province over the past eight years.

B.C. Green Leader Jane Sterk says the NDP's plan to dump the carbon tax is "completely irresponsible." She says her party believes a carbon tax is the first, important step toward curbing greenhouse gas emissions and she blasted New Democrats for denigrating the levy as a "gas tax."

The Hook will continue to report on this morning's debate through the afternoon.

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