Even though the Green, Liberal and NDP candidates spent a large portion of Wednesday night attacking and calling out Conservative candidate Cathy McLeod, some of McLeod’s strongest opposition came from the crowd itself. Several times throughout the debate, the audience could be heard calling for McLeod to give more sufficient answers.
When one concerned citizen asked McLeod if she “condoned the lies of other conservative MPs and the PMO,” McLeod answered saying:
“All leaders lie. We should wonder about the total accuracy of any statement. I’ve heard things that Trudeau has said. I’ve heard things that Mulcair has said. Is your candidate accurate with what they’re saying?”
Emotions ran highest when TRUSU LGBTQ representative and aboriginal student Julian Simpson questioned McLeod on the why Conservatives had resisted calls for an inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
In response, McLeod promised she was doing all she could, saying “Absolutely I care. I spent many nights reviewing cases. We heard some horrific things. They want these crimes solved, we want these crimes solved. It’s time to take action.”
As much as the audience was not happy with McLeod’s answer, NDP candidate Bill Sundhu and Liberal candidate, Steve Powrie used her answer as further proof of the Harper government’s lack of decision on the issue.
“Harper doesn’t care. 1,200 missing and murdered women and we haven’t even had an inquiry. Yet after two incidents, he pushed through Bill C-51,” Sundhu said.
“Within a hundred days of forming government we will have a national inquiry on the issue,” he continued.
This was far from the first time the NDP candidate would call out McLeod. In response to audience questions directed at McLeod, Sundhu attacked on issues ranging from Bill C-51 to the Ajax mine, to B.C.’s job creation record and arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
With Sundhu and McLeod trading blows, Powrie responded to one question first stating, “I love having Bill on my left because I can let him do the critiquing, while I talk about what we’re actually going to do.”
Powrie’s insistence on focusing on his own party’s policy instead of getting defensive would come to an end however, when he felt he was more-or-less attacked by an audience questioner on why he wouldn’t just quit the race and endorse the NDP. The audience member had, weeks before, given Powrie a “5 o’clock deadline” to give his support to the NDP’s Sundhu.
“I have a one word answer,” Powrie said, “Democracy. A representative democracy is filled with advocates supporting what they believe in. I will not become a simple lackey for another party just because they have the better chance at winning.”
While Powrie was aware that his party was behind in the local polls, he was determined to not give in. Greenwood on the other hand, had a different strategy, calling on the undecided and discouraged conservatives to vote for him to make a statement.
“Conservatives are conservative in name only and their policies reflect that. So I extend an open invitation to conservative voters in particular. As a conservative voting for the greens, you’ll show Harper you don’t want to be taken for granted anymore.”
Another hot topic was that of electoral reform. McLeod claimed there was “no big appetite for electoral reform in Canada” despite jeering from the audience. She did however state that she was open to a referendum. Greenwood responded to her comment by calling for a referendum on Bill C-51. For their part, both Powrie and Sundhu promised this would be “the last first-past-the-post election” and said they would call for a commission on electoral reform if either of their parties are elected to govern.
On Bill C-51, McLeod was almost quick to say that it was supported by the Liberals as well. Despite this, Powrie was adamant that although he supported some measures of the bill, the Liberals had found that 95 per cent of concerns stemming from C-51 needed to be amended, promising that within the first month of forming government, the bill would be “detoxified.” Both Sundhu and Greenwood cited that the bill has done nothing for the safety of Canadians and has gone directly against the recommendations of judges and lawyers, and that their parties would repeal it immediately, if elected.
Although Powrie, Sundhu and Greenwood had differences of opinion on many of the issues, their message at the end of the debate was one of unity. Unity in defeating the incumbent Conservative government. While McLeod went on the defensive, stating that a vote for the Liberals or NDP is a vote for future debt, Powrie assured voters in the room that given national polls, only the Liberals can defeat Harper’s conservatives. Sundhu however, claimed that this may be the most important election in recent history, saying that this election has became “a battle for the soul of our country,” and given the atmosphere in the Grand Hall on Wednesday night, it very well might be.