Premier Christy Clark acknowledged Friday her ongoing by-election bid to win a legislature seat will mark her first full campaign without an all-candidates' debate.
"It's the very first," Ms. Clark said following a town-hall meeting likely to be the closest thing to such a gathering before the May 11 vote in Vancouver-Point Grey.
"I wish I had more time to do everything in this campaign," she said, following the hour-long forum at St. Mark's Church in Kitsilano.
About 120 people attended the well-mannered gathering. There was no sign of NDP candidate David Eby, Ms. Clark's most visible foe on the campaign trail.
But Danielle Alie, candidate for the centrist B.C. First party, took her turn at the microphone to ask Ms. Clark about the future of the harmonized sales tax, leading to a polite exchange between the two by-election candidates.
Ms. Clark said voters will make a decision on that issue with the results of the summer referendum.
Riding resident Ivan Thompson, who said he is undecided, noted he has been impressed with how Ms. Clark presents herself, but that he thought she made a mistake in not participating in an all-candidates debate.
"I just believe that those forums are richer because they provide an opportunity for the public to really hear different perspectives and triangulate more," said the 53-year-old program officer with a philanthropic organization.
But Mr. Thompson, who asked the premier about her commitment to green policies and whether she would resist calls by her caucus and others to water down such policies, said he doubted the absence of such meetings will seriously hurt the premier at the polls.
"I think she comes into this by-election with a lot of momentum behind her. I think it will hurt her a little, but I don't think it will hurt her substantially."
Ms. Clark, in an interview, noted she did numerous debates as a candidate for the leadership of the B.C. Liberals and as an MLA.
"They're a chance for politicians to get angry at one another in front of audiences of decided people. There's a purpose to that. I understand that. I think it's interesting, and the media loves it but you have to choose if you're talking to citizens or you're talking to politicians. You should take citizens."
Ms. Clark has held a telephone-town hall, and also been door knocking and mainstreeting in the riding. She also worked a breakfast shift at a diner in Vancouver-Point Grey.
Mr. Eby has sharply criticized her for skipping all-candidates' meetings.
Ms. Clark noted that 60 to 70 people attended a recent all-candidates meeting in the riding compared to 2,000 she had contact with in the telephone town hall.
"What that tells me is people are wise to the nature of these meetings."
Topics raised during the town hall included climate change, oil-tanker bans - Ms. Clark thought the concept improbably, but called for stringent safety standards - seismic upgrades for schools, health care and allegations of corruption in the construction industry.
Ms. Clark departed the meeting for a ride along with the Vancouver Police Department that her campaign described as a bid to learn more about public safety.
Vancouver-Point Grey was previously held by Ms. Clark's predecessor Gordon Campbell, who won by about 50 per cent in 2009 compared to 40 per cent for the New Democrats. Ms. Clark's campaign manager in the by-election is former finance minister Colin Hansen, who has said the riding is far from a safe seat for the Liberals.