Bennett the smoother talker in the Fernie election forum

In the U.S. presidential election, the winner is usually the candidate with the most charisma and charm.

In the U.S. presidential election, the winner is usually the candidate with the most charisma and charm – the one with the ability to win over the voters with smooth talk.

If this was the case in the race for MLA, there would be a clear winner and the race would be over long before election day, May 14.

At the election forum in Fernie last week, the race for the Kootenay East seat was contended by two candidates that could not be more different. Liberal incumbent Bill Bennett is known for his straight talking, and answered his questions with the polish and expertise of someone who has been in the game for many years, which he has of course. NDP candidate Norma Blissett unfortunately could not stand up to the questioning and was left looking a little lost and confused, and out of her depth.

Bennett came across as genuine, even cleverly identifying some of the Liberal party’s mistakes rather than trying to make excuses for them – a tactic that will definitely endear an audience.

Norma Blissett defended her party admirably, and made lots of promises about more funding for schools, skills training and health care, but talked more about the province than the valley, and did not really say where the money would be coming from.

Whether you are a Liberal or NDP supporter, everyone wants to see competition in the election. That’s what democracy is all about. We want to have choices. I don’t think anyone expected Blissett, with her lack of experience, to come across as well as Bennett. But I think everyone hoped she would be able to stand her own, answer questions, and seem more prepared. It felt like she had things she wanted to say, just couldn’t find a way to articulate them.

In closing, Blissett asked the audience, “More of the same or a change for the better?”

Bennett was able to think on his feet, and responded with, “Time for a change? Be careful what you wish for!”

Hopefully Norma has learnt a lot from the first forum, and will be better prepared for the forums coming up in Sparwood on May 7 and Elkford on May 8. Then maybe we will actually be able to find out more about how she proposes to make these changes for the better she talked about, rather than just being distracted by the Bill Bennett show.