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Did NDP leader lose his cool, or is he just passionate?

(Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130)

People weigh in on political leaders debate

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The NEWS 1130 debate was a chance for the leaders of our province’s three major parties to pit their ideas against one another ahead of next month’s election, and like any good debate, there were a few flare ups.

Much of the tension centred around NDP leader John Horgan’s strategy of challenging BC Liberal leader Christy Clark on virtually every second point, choosing to call her on every comment he perceived as untrue or misleading.

That prompted BC Liberal supporters to start using the hashtag #CalmDownJohn on social media — echoing a line Clark threw Horgan’s way after one of his interruptions.

Following the debate, Horgan refuted the suggestion he was struggling to control himself — instead painting himself as a champion for all British Columbians.

“I’m passionate,” said Horgan. “It was my sense that the premier was taking liberties with the truth, using facts that were alternative to the reality that most people live with and I’ve been about people the whole campaign. We’re talking about affordability, we’re talking about services, we’re talking about things that matter to people. She’s not, and I felt I should call her out on it.”

Horgan was asked about the moment that Clark told him to calm down, and touched his arm — something that seemed to bother him.

“The premier just kept wanting to poke and poke, she was physically pushing me,” said Horgan. “What am I supposed to do? I want to stand up for people and I’ll stand up for myself as well.”

Clark seemed a bit baffled that Horgan was bothered by her touching his arm.

“We’re colleagues in the legislature,” says Clark. “We talk outside the legislature. Sometimes people touch each other. For me, this debate was a chance for us to talk about our plans, which I certainly tried to do. I don’t think I would have been offended by [someone touching me during the debate]. I mean it’s something that colleagues sometimes do I guess. I certainly didn’t intend to offend him.”

Clark, herself a radio veteran, seemed unrattled by the vigorous back-and-forth we saw at times — and says Horgan’s decision to challenge her was not out of character.

“Mr. Horgan was the same John Horgan I’ve known for four years,” says Clark. “None of that surprised me. I’ve been working across from him in the legislature for the last four years and he wasn’t much different from that today.”

Green leader Andrew Weaver, in an interesting approach, targeted the vast majority of his criticisms toward the BC Liberals, despite the fact his party is expected to closely compete against the NDP in many ridings, especially on Vancouver Island.

“We’re looking for change in this election,” says Weaver. “We believe the BC Greens are the change that you can count on. I wanted to show British Columbians how we contrast with the BC Liberals. We have an innovative suite of policies, fully costed. You’ll see that coming out next week and I thought it was important to distinguish ourselves against the BC Liberals.

“What’s important is what you stand for. I tried to focus on what we stood for. I didn’t want to get into the petty bickering.”