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Youth debate tall on fun, short on substance

Skinny jeans and municipal politics: finally, the two were twined Monday night. A candidates' debate organized by youth voting initiative Get Your Vote On was held yesterday at Mount Pleasant's popular Biltmore Cabaret. Advertised as "not your parent's debate," it was an ambitious effort to gather a sizable segment of the 86-person municipal race in one room.

Nine candidates participated in the event:

-Gregor Robertson, mayoral candidate, Vision Vancouver

-Marc Emery, mayoral candidate, Marijuana Party

-Andrea Reimer, council candidate, Vision Vancouver

-Heather Deal, council candidate, Vision Vancouver

-Ellen Woodsworth, council candidate, COPE

-Sean Bickerton, council candidate, NPA

-Alvin Singh, school board candidate, COPE

-Gerri Tramatola, council candidate, Work Less Party

-Timothy Wisdom, council candidate, Work Less Party

NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner was at a fundraising dinner at a private home in Shaughnessy, but, as some audience members noted, he didn't miss much. The event played out like an unwieldy game show and made for a muddled evening that made it difficult to distinguish candidates or their parties.

The audience – a group of about 100 people, mostly under 35 – "speed-dated" candidates for the first hour. Municipal hopefuls spent five minutes at each of several crowded bar tables, taking questions on issues like poverty reduction, the environment, transportation, arts and culture, and inclusion and accessibility. The noisy bar made hearing difficult, and audience members had to rely on luck to hear specific candidates speak on their issue of interest. Onstage Q & As and a "two truths and a lie" party game followed. (Gregor Robertson's lie: he once got in a fight with ex-Canuck Gino Odjick. His truths: he has four teenage children and was last seen on the Biltmore stage playing tuba with the Buttless Chaps).

If the evening was intended to reach out to youth voters, it left a lot to be desired. Many were out the door before the last questions were answered, and the lingering feeling was exactly what youth voting strategists might loathe to hear: the night clarified little, and perhaps even confused an already crowded and convoluted race.

Jackie Wong reports for the Westender

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