The TV debate is, of course, exciting for those of us involved in politics. Generally, it marks the half-way point in a campaign, a time to see if the dynamic can be changed or not. As well, traditionally the TV debate marks the point in the campaign when most voters will really start paying attention.
For Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals, 10 to 15 per cent behind in the polls with just two weeks left until voting day, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Although she has shown herself to be, as promised, a relentlessly energetic (if also relentlessly negative) campaigner, nothing seems to be making a difference.
The vast majority of British Columbians are still adamant that it’s time for a change in government, and it seems nothing they have said or done and, indeed, nothing Adrian Dix and the B.C. NDP have said or done has changed that.
And so Premier Clark needs to do more in the TV debate than just win. She needs to win decisively, and do so in a way that will jar voters into considering giving her a mandate, and returning the B.C. Liberals to power again after 12 years.
It won’t be easy.
First of all, she and her party are sorely lacking credibility. The H.S.T is sure to come up, reminding voters why and how the B.C. Liberals broke trust with them in the first place – promising not to introduce it during the 2009 campaign, only to bring it in a year later.
Second, Premier Clark will have to deal with Conservative leader John Cummins. While his party has had some troubles vetting candidates, she still needs to protect her right flank. He will no doubt challenge her attempt to paint herself as a fiscal conservative, pointing out that her claim of being committed to a “debt free B.C.” is laughable given the fact she has added $11 billion to the debt in just 2 years, increasing the debt faster than any government in B.C. history.
Last, but not least, this is her last chance to try and convince voters that B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix can’t be trusted to manage B.C.’s economy. So far, this has been a tough sell to voters given the B.C. Liberal record of the last 12 years. But we can still expect her to spend most of her time going after Dix, and expect her to be even more aggressive than the first debate.
After spending the first half of the campaign on the attack, it will also be interesting to see if Premier Clark will use the opportunity to talk to the voters in more than platitudes about her plans for the next four years if she is re-elected.
So far, Premier Clark has opposed every positive proposal the B.C. NDP has made for change, including increasing supports for low-income people, more resources for our schools and hospitals, and increased money for skills training. Maybe during the debate, instead of just hearing what she doesn’t like about the B.C. NDP approach, voters will get a chance to hear more about what she will do on these critical issues. But I’m not holding my breath.
Marcella Munro is an NDP strategist, and Principal with Earnscliffe Strategy Group. Connect with her on Twitter @marcellam.
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