OPINION: Takeaways from the Squamish federal debate

The recent all-candidates debate in Squamish provided us with the first real glimpse of how our candidates would fare against each other.

Here are a few takeaways for the ‘Big 4’ parties — the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens — that stood out in my mind during the event, which was held last week at Quest University.

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Patrick Weiler, the Liberal candidate, was easily the most polished. That’s not necessarily saying he will be the best choice for the riding — voters will decide that — but there was no question that when it came to knowing the ins and outs of his party’s platform, he delivered.

Of all the candidates, he was the most capable of laying out his party’s specific proposals, and how they could work in locals’ favour — sometimes, right down to the dollar figure.

The downside was that promising many things to many people can leave you without a central message. The Liberals stand for everything, and, in turn, some may interpret them as standing for nothing.

He also failed to address Liberals’ decision to buy a pipeline and cancel electoral reform — two things that many consider egregious about-faces on their part.

Conservative Gabrielle Loren was also a polished speaker, but her appeal to voters was more centred on her background (‘I’m a responsible accountant’)  and Conservatives’ predictable talking points — bringing down taxes and red tape.

The vagueness of her proposals, however, left something to be desired. On occasion, there were mentions of tax credits for things like the arts, but she did not have the same grasp of her party’s platform the way Weiler did.

The NDP candidate, Judith Wilson, put on an impassioned performance — while she was there. Her absence through half of the debate must’ve led many to question if the NDP have simply thrown in the towel for this riding.

She was also the vaguest of the Big 4. She recited the NDP’s past accomplishments but made almost no specific mention of their future plans. We know they care about social welfare and climate change. Beyond that, there was little more.

She should be acknowledged for taking the gloves off against the incumbent government. She seemed to be the only candidate not holding back in her critique of the Liberals.

Dana Taylor of the Green Party hit all the familiar marks of what you’d expect in a Green candidate. His performance compared with his last run in the provincial elections was greatly improved — no longer constantly reading notes.

His plea regarding the environmental crisis was well articulated, but it was unclear if he was able to convince voters the Greens are capable of running a government.

It was clear he’d done research on other issues, but it’s not apparent if that was enough to break voters free from the notion that the Greens may be a one-issue party.

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