Northwest BC Conservative pitch for debate falls short

Liberal and NDP candidates say they have prior commitments

Round Robin Debate

SKEENA BC Conservative candidate Mike Brousseau’s late in the writ pitch for a final debate doubling as a fundraiser has been shot down by his NDP and BC Liberal opponents.

Brousseau did not participate in an April 25 debate on education at the Elk’s Hall citing a prior engagement to attend an information session on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline plan.

But he did show up briefly beforehand to hand out flyers challenging NDP candidate Robin Austin and BC Liberal candidate Carol Leclerc to a round robin debate and fundraiser May 11 at the Thornhill Community Church.

“This will be a sparring unlike any we have seen yet,” reads the flyer. The event would cost $100 for dinner and act as a fundraiser for the Terrace Assembly of Gatherers, a homeless and community outreach project Brousseau helped found.

None of the money raised would go toward his campaign, said Brousseau.

But neither Austin or Leclerc will be participating in the event, citing too short notice on a date just three days before the May 14 election.

“Unfortunately the request came in too late and she is already booked up till election day,” said Val Gauvin, Leclerc’s campaign manager.

Austin declined the invitation as well.

“Prior notification could have helped,” said Gord Lechner, Austin’s campaign manager, noting Austin is scheduled to be door knocking at that time. “It’s three days before the election, that’s the time you’re going out meeting the electorate, knocking on doors.”

The last 72 hours before election day is significant, he said, noting that including next week’s debate at Mount Elizabeth Secondary School in Kitimat, Austin will have participated in six debates.

The campaign has requested Austin’s image be removed from the flyer before any more are distributed. Both Leclerc’s and Austin’s image are displayed at the top of the flyer.

“They created an event, used all of the candidates pictures, … without prior approval,” said Lechner. “I don’t want to give anyone the impression, if this is going to go ahead and they’re raising money by suggesting we’re going to be there, that this is somehow endorsed by [Austin].”

But Brousseau isn’t taking no for an answer.

“Those were all candidates forums, they weren’t debates,” he said, noting the format of his proposed debate is more of a head-to-head style.

“If these guys don’t show up, guess who is going to look really bad?,” he said. “I’m dropping the gloves, I’m dropping the gauntlet.”

The fundraiser will go on as scheduled, with or without the NDP and Liberal candidates, said Brousseau.

And Austin’s campaign is questioning the motives behind the proposed fundraiser.

“Either the whole thing is a bit of a set up to try to get Robin and Carol in there,” said Lechner. “Or it’s a bit of a set up so that if [the candidates] say they don’t want to go, they can attack him… It’s bizarre.”