I listened to the BC election leaders debate this morning on CKNW. I thought all of them, Carole James of the NDP, Gordon Campbell of the Liberals, and Jane Sterk of the Green Party, came across well.
James made one mistake that women leaders sometimes make though. She occasionally used an 'up-talk' style: when making an assertion, she would end the sentence as though she were asking a question. This can make a leader come across as less than confident in their own positions. But James didn't use that style consistently, just occasionally. Jane Sterk never used that style.
I thought the CKNW moderator Bill Good revealed bias against Carole James. It showed up after James stated during the debate that the NDP had decided that during this election campaign, they would be "tough on the issues" but would not resort to "personal attacks". Bill Good then asked James if she had not been engaging in personal attacks toward Gordon Campbell during this debate. She responded firmly, "No". Then Good allowed a long, long, long pause, so long that it made a statement in itself. Then, in discussions with four voters -- these voters seemed stacked against Carole James -- after the debate, Good stated that he felt James had been resorting to personal attacks against Gordon Campbell throughout the entire debate.
He was wrong.
A personal attack is an ad hominem attack or gratuitious criticism of another politician that has little to do with the issues. An extreme example would be past federal Conservative Party TV ads criticizing the facial paralysis of Jean Chretien. During this morning's debate, James was simply being intensely critical of Liberal policies; each time she was asked about an issue, she would criticize the Liberal record on it and use the name "Gordon Campbell" when she did it. For example, when a caller accused James of misleading the public by saying that the Liberals had sold assets such as rivers when in fact they had leased them, James retorted that when "Gordon Campbell" gives a company a 49 year lease on a river or a 99 year lease on BC Rail, the result is esentially a sale. That response was typical of James' responses throughout the debate. She was on the attack, but not in a personal way.
I found it interesting that while James repeatedly emphasized the name "Gordon Campbell" when answering debate questions, Campbell avoided using James' name and consistently referred to her as the "the leader of the opposition." But he called the Green Party leader, "Ms. Sterk".
I'm not a defender of Carole James or the NDP. But I think if CKNW is claiming to be hosting a neutral debate and re-cap, they should make every effort to ensure it is neutral. After the debate, I had little doubt that Good was a Liberal supporter.