Horgan stands up well to scrutiny

The most frustrating part about Tuesday night's provincewide television broadcast of the provincial leadership debate was how Vancouver-centric the entire affair was.

Hosted by the broadcast consortium of CBC, Global and CTV, the questions for Christy Clark of the B.C. Liberals, John Horgan of the NDP and Andrew Weaver of the Greens were all about bridge tolls, housing costs, the fentanyl crisis and jobs.

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There was even a question about Family Day, because apparently someone, somewhere at a Robson Street Starbucks is mulling over their unicorn latte why B.C.'s Family Day holiday in February isn't on the same Monday as everyone else's in Canada.

During a 90-minute commercial-free event, neither the moderator Jennifer Burke, nor any of the candidates, brought up First Nations, the environment, pipelines, agriculture, mining, access to health care, post-secondary education, tourism, seniors or the declining rural population.

Education in its entirety would have been ignored if Horgan hadn't brought it up. Horgan also brought up youth in foster care. Clark mentioned where legal marijuana might be bought because apparently Horgan's idea of selling it in liquor stores is terrible.

By the merciful end (who has been ever more thankful to switch to an Edmonton Oilers game?), it was once again confirmed that there is nothing beyond the Fraser Valley except for some sawmills affected by the softwood lumber dispute and the

Site C dam. The ignorance of the Vancouver urbanites running these provincial broadcasters to the rest of B.C. is on par with how stupid Americans are about Canada.

Weaver was a revelation but only because virtually no one outside of Vantoria who isn't a political junkie had ever seen or heard of him before. Smart guy, held his own against two politicians with far more experience, not so polished but for an increasing amount of voters, those rough edges translate into genuine and sincere.

Clark, of course, was all sweetness and light, as always. It worked for her in 2013 against Adrian Dix but this time around it just seemed plastic and fake.

Hillary Clinton found out the hard way during last fall's U.S. presidential election and Jim Prentice discovered in the Alberta provincial election how an artificial smile and a patronizing tone of superiority can annoy voters. Clark's bubbly arrogance is fast becoming a liability.

Horgan did well fencing with Clark but he seemed unprepared for Weaver's firm persistence. Weaver threw out a haymaker when he said "the NDP says vote for us because we're not as bad as the Liberals but better than really bad is still bad."

On Thursday morning, a short sleep and a shorter flight to Prince George, Horgan was at The Citizen for a one-on-one interview where his command of the issues beyond what's bothering the sheltered folks of Victouver was on full display.

He spoke confidently and insightfully about everything from the Columbia River treaty and raw log exports to what a legal marijuana retail sales model could look like in B.C. and the importance of agriculture and food security to Prince George and the surrounding region.

Like the debate, he relied strictly on the database between his ears, some colourful turns of phrase ("serving fruit cups from China in our health-care facilities doesn't make any sense" to explain his support for B.C. agriculture) and a small dose of humility ("the public is well ahead of the policy makers" on the marijuana issue).

He took each question serious and straight up, in contrast with Clark who, when sitting in the same chair last week, seemed slightly annoyed when she couldn't quickly turn a couple of the questions into "jobs, jobs, jobs," "remember the 1990s" and "I'll stand up to Trump."

At both the beginning and the end of his 30 minutes at The Citizen, Horgan mentioned that there's just 12 days left until voting day.

In stark contrast to that endless 2015 federal election, this campaign has flown by and time is quickly running out.

Yet the final 12 days of the U.S. election doomed Clinton and the same thing happened to Prentice in Alberta, surprising voters and pundits alike with a Trump victory and an NDP win.

As with Rachel Notley in Alberta, Horgan's narrow path to victory runs through the urban centres, not the rural regions.

Horgan will likely make a quick trip out to Smithers and Terrace next week but that may be the extent of his northern travels because the Greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island ridings will decide his party's fate.

Fortunately for area residents, the man who would be premier can at least speak to the issues beyond Hope with some degree of knowledge and awareness.

That certainly can't be said to the organizers of Tuesday night's leaders debate.

-- Managing editor Neil Godbout

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