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Opinion
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BC Election 2020

Please Advise! Who Won the BC Election Debate? Was It the Doctor Guy?

At least it wasn’t a fly this time. Our spin doctor on Tuesday night’s democratic discourse.

Steve Burgess 13 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

So who won the B.C. leaders’ debate?

Signed,

Viewer

Dear V,

Dr. Steve was looking forward to this event. Spin doctors love drama or, failing that, at least some sort of entertaining nonsense. This week in fact, Dr. Steve has been busy breeding flies in hopes that one will land in someone’s hair during Tuesday night’s debate. Clever Premier John Horgan appeared to have taken pre-emptive action to forestall that possibility.

Early on it seemed that the three debaters on stage — Horgan, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau — were determined to thwart Dr. Steve’s hopes for a brouhaha. No doubt this was a reaction to the recent U.S. presidential debate, a spectacle so appalling that the Fingernails-on-a-Chalkboard Channel experienced a ratings surge. This debate was a much more civilized affair. “That’s not true” or “Nonsense,” muttered Horgan from time to time, which is not quite Biden’s “Aw, would you shut up, man?”

It hasn’t been a good season for moderators, with Chris Wallace and Susan Page taking their turn in the barrel in the U.S. election. If B.C.’s moderator Shachi Kurl had little chance of being portrayed on Saturday Night Live, at least she didn’t find her herself on Amazon searching for cattle prods halfway. Everyone was annoyingly well-behaved.

Remarkably, John Horgan’s Twitter account was tweeting during the debate.

Apparently it’s not just the kids who are multi-screening these days. But in a world where the late Herman Cain still tweets that COVID-19 is no big deal, Horgan’s tweet feat is just par for the course.

As this election campaign progressed, Dr. Steve was beginning to think it would pass by as uneventfully as Mike Pence’s bachelor party. Then came the now-infamous Zoom roast video. It was revealed on Thanksgiving weekend while people all over the province were preparing turkeys for the oven. The BC Liberals were clearly ready to self-baste.

Horgan had opportunities to bring up the roast but didn’t, at least not directly. It was only after a question to the leaders asking them to acknowledge their white privilege — “I didn’t see colour,” Horgan said of his youth, and had there been an audience the sound of cringing might have been audible — that he went on to say to Wilkinson, “I think it’s a bit rich being lectured by you,” letting viewers Zoom in the blanks.

But moderator Kurl would not let it pass by unmentioned, asking Wilkinson a question about the ill-fated roast. Wilkinson stood right up, firmly grasped MLA Jane Thornthwaite by the collar, and tossed her straight under the bus.

Wilkinson is a doctor. He mentioned that sometimes — roughly as often as Bones on Star Trek. Wilkinson may have been in the most unenviable position of the three leaders. Behind in the polls, he surely wanted to make a splash. But he also had to appear likeable — a challenge comparable to Horgan winning Dancing with the Stars — and that meant exercising restraint. He seems to have focused primarily on the latter strategy. Wilkinson did not display the harsh edge he sometimes showed during the 2018 BC Liberal leadership debate. After all, a calm demeanour is important when you’re a doctor. He is a doctor, by the way.

Horgan was obviously the leader wearing a shirt from Target. When Wilkinson had a chance to ask Furstenau a question, his question essentially amounted to, “Tell me Ms. Furstenau, why do you think John Horgan is such an irresponsible rat?”

It was a first time in the spotlight for Furstenau and she came off well. Third-party leaders often come off well in these events, seeming to float above the fray. But Furstenau sounded sincere, particularly on the question of parents talking to their kids about the perils of inequality in society.

Speaking of kids, $10-a-day daycare was an issue that everybody onstage seemed to agree on. Fine idea, but Dr. Steve would like to take this opportunity to mention that he charges only eight bucks a kid. What’s his secret? Volume, volume, volume! Free range, too. And don’t worry, there’s only so many exit routes from Stanley Park, so the kiddies will probably all show up eventually.

So who won this event? Dr. Steve is more comfortable identifying the loser. That would be Dr. Steve, who was hoping for something juicier. But no worries — he'll bounce back. After all, he's a doctor, you know.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Election 2020

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