The economy, crime and the environment were the hot topics as the leaders of B.C.’s three main parties squared off in a televised debate last night to try to shore up votes in a final push toward next week’s provincial election.

The debate, the second between the three leaders, was broadcast on CBC, CTV and Global. It had the leaders responding to and debating questions posed by British Columbians on subjects like leadership, child poverty, health and seniors’ care.

“This is a question of our economy and leadership,” Premier Gordon Campbell said at the end of the one-hour debate. “Who can lead us through these challenging times so we come out stronger on the other side?”

Campbell, who hopes to lead his Liberal party to a third term on May 12, spent much of the night attacking New Democrat Leader Carole James for a lack of business experience and policies that he claimed would increase costs to small businesses by $450 million and cost 50,000 jobs.

For her part, James accused Campbell of failing to invest during good times to reduce child poverty and support for post-secondary students. She attacked him for abandoning rural B.C. and challenged him to respond to allegations about B.C. Rail.

“I’m going to make families come first,” said James, as she pledged to cut taxes, keep public resources in public hands and make investments in education and health care.

Green Party Leader Jane Sterk was ignored by the other leaders and at one point complained “I actually feel like I’m not here.”

Sterk, who called for the end of drug prohibition, said Campbell and James were playing a “blame game” and used her closing statement to appeal to the 40 per cent of non-voters.

“You could get some Green members into the legislature,” Sterk said. “That would profoundly change the legislature for the good.”

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