Todd Doherty’s big mistake was that he didn’t correct his first mistake.
It was the defining moment of Thursday night’s all-candidates forum at UNBC.
It came at the end of the night during discussion on the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership. Doherty, the Conservative candidate in Cariboo-Prince George, was defending the trade deal with 11 other countries. No one expected him to do anything else.
NDP candidate Trent Derrick was pressing him to explain why it’s such a good deal for Canada and asked him if he has read the agreement.
Here comes the first mistake: Doherty said he had.
That not only sent the other candidates into a tizzy, but also all the 350 people jammed into the room. The entire nation is clamouring for details on the deal and here, in little old Prince George, we have someone who is not only privy to the text of the document, but who has read it.
Most were probably thinking: “Great, only Conservative insiders get to read the deal.”
However, after being pressured, once again by other candidates and the crowd, Doherty admitted that what he read was a summary of the deal, which was probably not much more than talking points for candidates.
As mentioned earlier, the big mistake was not correcting his first mistake.
Liberal candidate Tracy Calogheros summed up the problem very succinctly.
She said that if he hadn’t been called on it, Doherty would have been content to leave the room with the crowd believing he had actually read the document, and that goes to character.
It was interesting that the hardest body blow on Doherty came from Calogheros, given that the Conservative candidate, from the outset, felt that his fight was with Derrick. And make no mistake about it, Doherty and fellow Conservative Bob Zimmer in the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, were under fire from all side because, understandably, the Conservatives have to defend their record.
From the opening bell (sorry to use the boxing metaphors), Doherty set his sights on Derrick. The first question was on Senate reform … and they were off. Moderator Tracy Summerville had to use her “big girl voice” to get the two to shut up.
However, on that issue Doherty’s point was a good one. The NDP have vowed to abolish the Senate but haven’t really explained how they’re going to do that without opening up a constitutional quagmire. I felt sorry for Christian Heritage Party candidate Adam De Kroon, who was seated between Derrick and Doherty, as they were leaning intently toward each other, finger-jabbing their points (mostly under De Kroon’s nose).
Independent Sheldon Clare scored points for pointing out that Senate reform can be done without constitutional amendments. He also made it clear that he won’t fade into the backbench curtains if we send him to Ottawa.
“I’m hard to ignore,” he said, to everyone’s agreement in the room.
So was there a winner?
Hard to say. It was tough night for Doherty, simply because he has to defend a government that he hasn’t been a part of and, like I said, everyone was gunning for him, and the crowd cheered the loudest when the Conservatives were slammed.
Zimmer, who again clarified his comments about missing and murdered indigenous women, was also a target. The nice thing about the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies debate, which was was more civil, was that the other candidates hammered Zimmer and the Conservatives on their stance towards missing and murdered women, not Zimmer’s comments that were taken out of context.
The line of the night, though, goes to NDP candidate Kathi Dickie, an aboriginal woman: “Why am I seen as an inferior disposable object, and have been for years?”
Good question. None of us can answer that, we can only change it.