Friday, September 4, 2020

Higgs the Big Winner in New Brunswick Leader's Debate

 Last night's New Brunswick leader's debate was rather interesting - for several reasons.

First, Premier Higgs was under attack from all sides for calling an unnecessary election. Higgs nevertheless handled himself well, although his anger was quite apparent and a little unbecoming.
People's Alliance Party leader Kris Austin appeared to be the most polished, and probably the best versed on the issues. He oozed charm and credibility - although I found some of his statements (like being proud about unilingual emergency services) a little off-putting. But there is no denying that Austin shone on this stage, making a strong pitch to voters to elect his MLA's to parliament.
NDP leader Mackenzie Thomason, just 23 years old (and played up his youth with a sharp Jimmy Olsen bow-tie), was the other stand-out of the debate. He knew his stuff, spoke off-the-cuff very well, hitting all of the high notes on issues from the economy and health care to regional development. Watch this guy - he is going to be a rising star in his party. If anybody was wondering whether a vote for the NDP in New Brunswick would be a "wasted" vote, Thomason firmly answered that question last night with a loud "No Way!"
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers was probably the most underwhelming. I expected a lot more from Vickers - but largely he stuck to his talking points, and looked very uncomfortable with his wooden delivery. Higgs essentially manhandled him every time there was a confrontation between the two. It didn't help that in certain camera angles, Vickers make-up turned his face the colour of his tie - beet-red. Going on about untested technology (small modular nuclear reactors) made him look scary and fringe. And essentially calling the Moderator a liar at one point really sunk Vickers.
Green Party leader David Coon gave a bit of an unremarkable performance, providing few specifics about what Greens would do to influence the next government. Coon was most at home speaking about environmental issues, like Maritime Iron and the Paris Agreement. Coon's relaxed performance was remarkable (how could he be so cool in such a high pressure situation?) - but he came across as being a indifferent and lacking passion - except during a strange exchange between himself and Vickers where Vickers accused the Greens of walking away from some vote or the other (rich coming from Vickers who actually walked away from the all-Party committee that led to this election, and whose party abstained from voting on the budget). Vickers even made a pitch to Green voters, claiming in defiance of evidence, that the Liberals are "greener than the Greens". But even then, Coon failed to capitalize on this opening.
And finally, what on earth was the "Keep It Simple Solutions" Party leader doing in this debate? They're not even registering in the polls, they don't have any sitting MLAs. And their bewildered leader was completely out of place on that stage. The only thing I learned about KISS is that their leader has an allergy to cattle, and embraces homeopathy (of all things).
I suspect the media will spin this in the following way: Higgs winning the debate, despite being under fire, with Vickers wooden, shakey, and angry - especially when taking on the Moderator. Vickers really doesn't appear ready to be Premier. Possibly the media will also remark on the strong performances for Austin and Thomason.
But whatever the spin is likely to be, last night's debate was not very helpful to David Coon and the Green Party. At this point in the election, it might be too much to expect the NDP to start climbing in the polls. But Thomason's strong performance means that their polling numbers aren't likely to collapse further.
Coon needed to make the case that the Green Party was the only party that could hold the Progressive Conservatives accountable. Kevin Vickers opened the door for that to happen. But Coon just didn't walk through it.
One final note: Who else here is getting sick and tired of political debates where zero questions are asked about the biggest issue of our times - the climate emergency? I am just so fucking fed up that debate organizers at all levels are ignoring this. It's an injustice to the voting public, in my opinion.
(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

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