An all candidates forum in the district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi Tuesday evening was a lopsided affair.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, the incumbent MHA, squared off against political neophyte Drew Brown who’s running for the Liberals in the district.
PC candidate John Noseworthy, the province’s former auditor general, declined an invitation to attend the forum.
While the experienced Michael confidently quoted from her party’s platform when she could and answered other questions on the fly with little hesitation, Brown admitted throughout the evening he lacked political experience and nervously stumbled through many of his early answers.
But to Brown’s credit, he told the 40 or so people who attended the forum hosted by the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association that he would answer all questions as honestly and as best he could, and seemed to get a bit more comfortable as the evening went on.
“I’m actually more of an academic pretending to be a politician,” Brown said in his opening statement. “I’m basically running as a regular person, or as much of a regular person as an academic ... can be.”
According to his biography on the provincial Liberal website, Brown is a freelance writer and graduate student in political science at Memorial University.
After opening statements, the audience asked a number of diverse questions from the parties positions on job creation and the environment to poverty reduction and affordable housing.
Both candidates had much in common and agreed with each other at several occasions throughout the forum.
Brown’s firmest stance was on Muskrat Falls. He said a Liberal government would “chuck the current deal.”
“It would increase our debt significantly,” he said. “The current government is ... running an election campaign (by saying) ‘we’re really good with money. Please give us more so we can build a dam that doesn’t make sense.”
The Liberals claim the deal will drive people’s power bills through the roof.
But Brown wasn’t afraid to criticize his own party, refreshing for a candidate in the middle of a campaign.
When asked about the rural-urban divide and comments made by fellow Liberal candidate Danny Dumaresque at a recent St. John’s Board of Trade debate Brown said the remarks were an “idiotic comment by an idiotic man.”
“I think ... the province should pay municipal taxes to the City of St. John’s,” he added, saying he’s sick of all the potholes peppering the city’s streets.
He also criticized the party’s leadership for “waffling” when trying to defend Dumaresque.
Conversely, Michael was asked if she felt her party was spending too much time in the St. John’s area and not enough outside the overpass.
“We are here for the whole province,” she said. “We are a provincial party and we care as much about rural issues as we do about (urban) issues.”
The only question that received a roomful of applause was a rhetorical one posed by audience member Robert Sweeny about the candidate not in the room.
“If John Noseworthy doesn’t want to answer our questions when he’s running for office, how many will he answer were he to be elected?” he asked.