Thursday, November 13, 2008
The last mayoral debate
Last night Gregor Robertson and Peter Ladner squared off in the last mayoral election before Saturday's civic election. With the CBC's Rick Kluff moderating and Stephen Quinn and Frances Bula asking the questions, our two hopefuls took the gloves off and got dirty.
The debate was separated into three broad themes: Housing, crime and transportation. Unfortunately the topics were overshadowed somewhat by the $100-million loan fiasco, and Peter was obviously frustrated by the spotlight on it, but it is something that Vancouverites are talking about. He opened the can in his opening address, so fair game. Is Gregor "playing politics", as Peter claims? Um, he's a politician, that's what they do. Running city hall is politics. Loaning $100-million to a developer while in an in-camera meeting? Pretty sure that's politics.
The candidates dutifully plowed through some generic questions about homelessness, bike lanes and policing. Judging by crowd response (but how can you?), Gregor won this one with some clear statements of intent. Both candidates let the accusations fly: Peter challenging Gregor on his provincial voting record and Gregor attacking Peter's lack of action over the past three years.
Project Civil City (how Orwellian is that?) and the Ambassadors program were contentious issues, ones that clearly separate the two candidates (Peter for, Gregor against, in case you were wondering). More than a few times both men's answers were to lobby higher levels of government, a difficult political position for the candidates, but one that illustrates well the lack of power and influence that civic politicians have.
For someone who is running for the top job in Vancouver, Peter Ladner didn't show so much enthusiasm. The loan fiasco is probably taking a toll, but I got the feeling he thinks the city just needs a competent manager, not a bold leader. Given the events of the past few days, I tend to agree with the need for competence, but surely a little vision and leadership are needed if we're to deal with the raft of issues Vancouver is facing.
The strangest question of the night came right at the end, from the CBC's Stephen Quinn. The question was really just a lengthy rambling outline of just how unlikeable Peter is. It made me uncomfortable, to be honest. Peter made a joke about his wife but then strangely engaged with the question, even admitting that his handlers constantly worked on the issue.
A bizarre end to a normal (even predictable) if lively election event.