If provincial Liberal candidate Dallas Henault didn't know he was facing a hostile crowd during last night's Victoria-Beacon Hill all candidates debate, he did when an audience member told him: "This government is responsible for a genocide against the people of B.C." - demanding his leader Gordon Campbell be "brought to The Hague." But that debate, which took place at Our Place - a downtown Victoria shelter - was also likely the only chance he'll have to spar with his opponent, New Democrat leader Carole James, for the remainder of the election. This, after she initially refused to commit to a debate with Mr. Henault, telling Public Eye, "I leave my scheduling to the campaign."
And that campaign chose the friendliest forum it could find to duel with the 25-year-old former aide to Liberal executive director Kelly Reichert. Some examples:
* When her bus arrived at the shelter, Ms. James was greeted by a crowd of placard-carrying supporters.
By comparison, Mr. Henault's cheering section seemed to be limited to less than a quarter of the approximately 150 who attended the debate.
* The debate was focused on "poverty and homelessness" issues - arguably, the weakest part of the Campbell administration's record. For example, according to a report obtained by The Tyee's Andrew MacLeod there may be as many as 15,500 adults with severe addictions or mental illness who are homeless. And, according to First Call BC, the Liberals have presided over the highest rate of child poverty in the country for the past five years.
* Mr. Henault was seated beside independent candidate Saul Andersen, who sported a T-shirt that read "Gordzilla Eats BC Rail." The shirt also featured an image of the giant Japanese lizard, with the monster's head replaced by Mr. Campbell's face.
* None of the questions asked during the debate gave any comfort to Mr. Henault. And no fewer than three of them came from audience members wearing New Democrat buttons.
So yes, Ms. James did debate Mr. Henault - which is more than what Mr. Campbell is doing for his New Democrat opponent Mel Lehan in Vancouver-Point Grey. But she did so on her own terms.