HORNER: Relax, everything will be just fine

This week, NEWS columnist Neil Horner takes a look at election debates past and present

  • Apr. 4, 2013 5:00 p.m.

It was a showstopper.

The candidate had so far performed well, fielding questions at the all-candidates debate along with her fellows in a calm, knowledgeable, self-confident manner.

She made it all the way through to the  closing comments before she met her electoral Waterloo.

At the crucial moment I’m guessing she meant to say something innocuous like, “It would give me pause to …”

What came out however, was “It would give me menopause.”

At once, as if on cue, the high school theatre venue hushed to stone-cold silence.

“I mean, it would give me pause …”

Too late. The damage was done.

Filing out into the parking lot later, I could hear the word menopause uttered several times amongst the general mutter. I didn’t report that gaffe in the paper, but I didn’t have to. It was the talk of the town.

All candidates meetings. You’ve got to love ’em. Even with the forced sterility that nowadays passes for debate, there’s always a chance for someone to screw up and go down in flames — or even stir people’s hearts with a genuine expression of heartfelt humanity.

The screwups are more fun though, and far more frequent. That’s not surprising really. It can’t be easy to stand up there in front of all those people.

I heard one tale of a candidate getting so nervous he got a back spasm at the podium and fell to the floor. He was unable to get up and had to be carried off the stage.

By the time you read this we’ll have already had one all candidates meeting and I’m sure it will have gone really well and everyone will have been able to get all their points across in a lucid and calm manner, darn it.

It’s not just the candidates who screw up. Moderators can sometimes open wide enough to stick one or even two feet well past the ankle.

I remember one all candidates meeting moderated by my editor, the late, much-mourned  Jerry MacDonald.

One of the candidates was a guy called Robert Eyford. It’s pronounced eye, like eyeball, but for some reason Jmac slipped up and pronounced it as aye, like hay in his opening introduction.

“It’s Eyford,” the candidate politely corrected.

“Right, sorry,” said Jmac.

He was rattled. I could tell. Upon the next reference, Jerry once again called him Ayford.

“It’s Eyford,” the candidate said, with a terse laugh.

“Sorry.”

And the next time, Jerry made sure he got it right, or he thought he did. “Ayford,” he said triumphantly.

“Eyford,” the candidate hissed.

In the introductions for the closing statements, you could tell he had been rehearsing silently to himself.

“And now the comments from Richard Eyford,” he said carefully.

“It’s ROBERT!” the candidate roared.

Jerry threw up his hands and the audience howled.

I understand my latest editor is going to moderate one of the provincial all candidates meetings in the very near future. He seems at ease with the thought and I’m sure everything will go just fine.

However, I did suggest that if he gets nervous, he should think about me naked.

The public speaking wisdom of course is that he should think about the entire audience being naked, but with a mixed crowd like that it just wouldn’t be right.

It’s a little embarrassing, but that’s OK. I’m willing to take one for the cause of democracy.

Obviously, thinking about one person likely won’t prove as effective as an entire crowd but you never know, it might help a bit.

Just Posted

The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre at 100 Jensen Ave. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville 2020 annual report now ready for public feedback

Documents can be viewed online; comments or questions to be submitted before noon on July 5, 2021

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read