CBC Manitoba held a Leaders’ Debate at their Portage Avenue studios on August 28 in connection with the September provincial elections. Invited were the leaders of the four main political parties, namely Progressive Conservative (PC) leader and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Wab Kinew, Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, and James Beddome for the Green Party of Manitoba. CBC Manitoba, CTV Winnipeg and Global Winnipeg formed a media consortium which fielded a panel of journalists from each organization. Among the panel were CTV’s Jeff Keele, CBC’s Marcy Markusa and CJOB/Global’s Richard Cloutier. Joanne Kelly, a journalism instructor at Red River College, moderated the 50-minute verbal sparring among the leaders. Representatives of various media groups who were not part of the consortium also received an invitation to cover the event. This publication was part of that group, and sent the team of Ron Cantiveros, producer Donna Medina-Cantiveros, and this writer. The coverage team did a pre-debate broadcast via Facebook Live and interviewed CBC’s Bartley Kives to explain his role as fact-checker and its importance in holding the party leaders accountable for the veracity of their claims. As the debate went underway, the external media followed the proceedings in a viewing room.
Right out of the gate, the three other leaders went after perceived front-runner Pallister and grilled him on the PC’s consolidation of the province’s health care system and the recent downgrade of Manitoba’s economic outlook by the Conference Board of Canada. After the leaders’ questioned each other, they then answered questions from the panel of journalists about health care, the environment, and crime and drug addiction.
Among the key statements made were Pallister’s pledge that the PCs will balance the budget by 2022, two years earlier than previously projected; Kinew’s promise to re-open the emergency services at Seven Oaks and Concordia, and Beddome’s appeal to elect a Green Party representative to the legislature. A media scrum was held in the same studio right after the debate. One after another, the leaders re-emerged to answer questions from members of the external media. First up was Liberal leader Lamont, followed by Kinew, then Pallister, and finally Beddome. They were asked about how they would rate their rivals’ and their own performance during the debate. They also added details to their responses that were cut short due to time constraints.
Overall, the debate was peppered with crosstalk among the leaders as they countered one another’s statements. As for audience perception, CBC’s Austin Grabish wrote about the reactions of body language experts who were asked to observe the party leaders during the debate. According to the article, the experts stated that Kinew came across as ‘polished’, Pallister as ‘flustered’, Lamont as ‘a little too casual’ because of his attire and demeanor, and Beddome coming off as lacking confidence in a number of subjects. It remains to be seen whether or not this Leaders’ Debate will draw more voters to the polls compared to the average turnout in 2016 of 57.43% as posted by Elections Manitoba.
As for the rest of the candidates running in the elections, they have twenty-nine days to campaign in their respective ridings after Premier Brian Pallister met with the Lieutenant Governor on August 12 to formally call for the province’s 42nd elections. Six candidates from the Filipino community are running for seats. They are long-time MLA Ted Marcelino of the NDP running for re-election in Tyndall Park, the PC’s Jon Reyes previously the MLA of St. Norbert now running for Waverley, NDP’s Malaya Marcelino taking up the torch from MLA Flor Marcelino in the new riding of Notre Dame, Kelly Legaspi also of the NDP for the Agassiz riding, Liberal John Cacayuran for McPhillips, and Edda Pangilinan of the Manitoba Forward Party running for the Burrows seat. Advance voting began on the morning of August 29 and runs until September 5 in more than 300 locations throughout the province. The regular schedule of the provincial elections is on Tuesday, September 10.