The Burnaby South byelection debate on Thursday night turned out to be a showdown between NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson.
The topic for the night’s debate was “Can Canada Survive Facebook” and it was hosted by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
The room was immediately filled with a mix of PPC and NDP signs and placards, with very few Liberal signs and no Conservative representation.
On many points PPC candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson surged ahead, trailed behind only by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Thompson came out the strongest from the debate suggesting that the Burnaby South byelection might actually upset the former Liberal-NDP division in the riding with the introduction of the newly formed PPC.
Here are several highlights from the night.
American-Canadian moderator apologizes for Trump’s State of the Union address
The moderator, Linda Solomon Wood, Editor-in-Chief and CEO of online news media outlet National Observer, felt it necessary to apologize for Donald Trump’s state of the union address before the debate began.
“I just wanted to apologize to you all, to say as a dual-citizen, a proud Canadian as of 2012, that yeah, I’m sorry about what’s happening south of the border” she said.
How very Canadian of her. Since the debate was for four local British Columbia candidates, I’m not sure where the moderator was going with this comment.
Many Canadians would agree that the debate had nothing to do with the US President and it was very unclear why she felt it necessary to apologize for such an event.
Continuing in her introduction, Wood likely expected that populism has had a bad rap in Canada.
“We’re really in a time when the world is in turmoil, and we’ve seen upset elections across the world where populist leaders are coming into power, and some people think that’s a good thing,” said Wood.
Except to her surprise, many members of the crowd cheered at the idea that political leaders are running on populist ballots.
How horrible could it really be that there are politicians willing to speak to the people instead of to a political elite?
Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson CBC attacks met with applause
Throughout the night, Thompson found her footing sticking to the topic of the debate: the media landscape in Canada.
The PPC candidate found a favorite target in the CBC and continuously returned to the Liberal favoritism displayed towards the publicly funded broadcaster.
“The bloated CBC can’t be ranked higher than Canadians in need. The federal government has a job of running the country, not providing news and entertainment,” said Thompson.
Only last year, the Liberals bailed out “trusted” media platforms to the tune of over $600 million. The PPC candidate’s comments in opposition to the taxpayer-funded media outlet resounded with several supporters in the audience who cheered her on whenever she brought the CBC up.
“The CBC is clearly not governed by journalistic integrity or they wouldn’t be producing some of the stuff that they’re producing,” said Thompson to applause.
“Free speech is going to be global, you cannot try to stifle other kinds of ideologies or opinions that people put on the internet, that is not the job of government… We can do our own investigating and clearly if we’re to rely on the CBC we have to do our own investigating.”
Jagmeet Singh gets shouted down by an indigenous pipeline protestor
At one point in the night, Jagmeet Singh’s comments were interrupted by a pipeline protestor who criticized the federal leader for towing the line on pipelines.
“The last part of our land we have, you guys want to take it for oil. You don’t have consent,” said the man.
“You’re absolutely right. I’m happy to have a conversation about that, if you wanna stick around I’m happy to chat with you about it,” replied Jagmeet Singh.
The protestor continued to criticize the NDP leader for several minutes before he was escorted out of the room.
“No, we don’t want you elected if you’re supporting pipelines” said the man. “We don’t want any NDP elected… We’re used to the white Europeans taking our land, now we’ve got coloured people saying we want your land too. Who’s being racist now?”
Throughout the encounter, the NDP leader Jagmeet Singh remained composed and kept his head despite the interruption. Several people in the crowd clapped at the protestor’s comments as he left.
Liberal candidate Richard Lee suggests that the UN should monitor Facebook and social media
By the end of the night it was becoming clear that the Liberal candidate, Richard Lee had preformed the poorest.
This became especially evident when the crowd booed at his suggestion that the United Nations might act as a moderator for social media and Facebook.
“I think the United Nations should have authority to regulate those activities,” said Lee, regarding social media.
Lee’s comments were encountered by loud disapproval from a portion of the audience before he abruptly ended his comments.
Several other members of the panel also disagreed with Lee’s comments.
“I’m afraid that many of the proposed solutions, like what Richard just said, may result in censorship and restrict Canadian access to media. Any attempt to regulate free speech or media will carry a burden as well so I’m not sure how we can regulate internet at that level,” said Conservative candidate Jay Shin.
“Maybe you misunderstand my intention for regulation because we are talking about misinformation, I think how to regulate misinformation I personally think the United Nations is a road to take because there are so many countries there,” said Richard Lee.
“It doesn’t mean that we don’t have free speech. What I’m saying is that we believe in democracy, we believe in this system, we have the integrity of our democracy, so I think it’s important that we know how to seize a problem and propose a solution.”
Burnaby byelection moving forward
Last night’s debate was an exciting start for a byelection that is proving to be of national significance.
It’s becoming even more likely that the upcoming byelection will likely cast have implications for the entire nation.
Due to the factor that a federal leader like the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh is running for a seat in parliament just ahead of the 2019 federal election, people are paying attention to British Columbia’s local politics.
On January 15th, 2018, Jagmeet Singh was leading with 38% of the vote and the Liberals were trailing behind in second place under a different candidate, Karen Wang, with approximately 26.3% of the vote.
Since then the Liberals have gotten a new candidate and the PPC has proven to be a formidable force with their local choice in Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson.
The next polls will likely paint a new picture for observers around the country.
The Burnaby South byelection candidates are expected to return for a debate for Feburary 11th.