BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is looking at what could be his last chance to turn around an election campaign struggling to gain momentum.
Wilkinson will take the stage for the televised leaders debate at 6:30 p.m. on Global BC on Tuesday alongside BC NDP Leader John Horgan and BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau.
The debate is expected to centre around COVID-19 recovery and which leader is best suited to guide the province through the ongoing pandemic.
The pressure is on Wilkinson, who, according to recent polls, is trailing Horgan and the NDP by more than 15 points provincewide.
Wilkinson has faced additional pressure over allegations of sexism linked to candidate Jane Thornthwaite and a roast involving retired MLA Ralph Sultan.
“He (Wilkinson) might have to do something dramatic. If he does something dramatic to show there is no space for this in the party, then maybe he can pull something out of this,” UBC political scientist Gerald Baier said.
According to a recent VoteLocal survey from the Mustel Group and FleishmanHillard HighRoad, the issue that matters most to voters continues to be the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the economy.
Voters are also interested in hearing the leaders debate the economy and jobs, health care, support for vulnerable people, as well as the environment and climate change.
But instead of the electorate being interested in what the NDP accomplished in the past, the recent survey found voters are looking for proposals for confronting the challenges that lie ahead.
“People are worried about the pandemic getting worse before it gets better,” said FleishmanHillard HighRoad senior vice president Anna Lilly.
The ballot box question won’t be about values or the leaders’ visions for the future, as is often the case in elections. Instead, B.C. voters are looking for clarity on parties’ immediate plans to deal with COVID-19 and get the economy back on track. That means the three party leaders need to use the Oct. 13 debate to convince the electorate that they have the best platform.”
The BC Liberals are set to release a full platform on Tuesday. The party has so far released major parts of the plan including scrapping the PST for a year, fast-tracking a bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel and calling a referendum for Surrey residents to vote on whether they would like to move to a regional police force.
The BC Greens have also released many policy pieces, including exploring a four-day work week, but have not released a full platform.
The BC NDP released a fully-costed platform last week. The plan includes a one-time up to $1,000 credit for British Columbia families with a joint income less than $125,000, a freeze on rent increases until the end of 2021 and a rebate for renters making $80,000 or less a year.
Horgan will face less pressure in the debate this time then he did three years ago. The NDP leader came out composed after facing weeks of questions about this temper.
“Last time BC Liberals were telling British Columbians what to think of me, now they can make up their own minds, they have had three years of watching me. I smile more than I scowl,” Horgan said.
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