That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

An earthquake in Esquimalt

The political ground is set to quiver in my old stomping grounds, as Liberal MP Keith Martin won’t be seeking re-election in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. Some will call this a blow to Michael Ignatieff, as Martin has been an enduring figure in the riding for 17 years. To lose a stalwart is, perhaps, exactly as bad as it seems. It’s not as though he’s announcing other plans except to say that there’s a need for “fresh blood.”

Esquimalt’s affection for Martin has carried him through his career, much more than any clear local partisan bias has. He was elected as a Reform MP, elected as an Alliance MP, and elected as a Liberal MP. In some recent contests, he snuck past a close Conservative second-place challenger, in others he snuck past a close second-place NDP challenger. The nature of the riding is typically British Columbian – a genuinely fickle three-party race in which personality and timing can matter as much as ideology.

Every party has swung wildly there (in more ways than one AHEM), and though 2008’s contest was extraordinarily close, with the Tories closing to within a percentage point and the NDP appearing to have hemmoraged a 6% swing to the Greens, Martin himself remained the X Factor embodied.

Without him contesting, there is absolutely no calling the next race. The Liberals lose out on his local staying power, but have the Cons squandered too much in recent months/years to make a strong showing again? Will the Greens usurp the NDP as the next biggest challenger, to third or even second, what with neighbouring Saanich-Gulf Islands to be such a high profile contest for the Greens with Elizabeth May? (who bets that she’s spending her evening swearing at herself, wishing she’d held off from declaring Saanich and swooping into Esquimalt instead?)

Yes to all of it. Esquimalt is quite a constituency. It’s home to Canada’s Pacific fleet and houses a high proportion of navy families (the first Tim Horton’s I ever knew of in the Victoria area was in Esquimalt, precisely to feed the Nova Scotian “ex-pats”). It has poorer quarters occupied by some of Victoria’s working-class “values conservatives” as well working families under NDP economic tutelage. There are plenty of students and young Victorians with a distinctly granola edge to them, but they have a predictably unpredictable turnout rate. The mixture hardly makes it a bellwether – but it does make it interesting.

Look for each party to put up the best names they can in 2011-12… the hunt, I imagine, begins now (Michaelle? Calling Michaelle?).

UPDATE: Have just read Red Tory Liberal’s take on Martin’s resignation – interestinger and interestinger. BC Liberals will doubtlessly be looking for an “outsider” without the nasty HST taint to fill Campbell’s boots, and that means a federal politician with the Blue Liberal credentials. Hum!

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

The war on poppies

Dismayed but unsurprised to read another example of the Royal Canadian Legion attacking the distribution of white poppies. It cuts into their fundraising, and more importantly for them, it cuts into their desired philosophical monopoly on how we are supposed to reflect on war.

PEI’s Legion boss Jim Ross says of the white poppy campaign:

“To denigrate a symbol of the remembrance of people who died for this country certainly is emotional.”

The Legion are now threatening to sue the White Poppy campaign – for what, a breach of trademark? Maybe I’ve forgotten what Remembrance Day is all about, but I didn’t think it was about petty sectarian battles against people in the community who grieve the fallen in a different way.

The white poppy has been in manufacture and distribution since the 1920s. Now distributed by Quakers (those nasty Quakers!) and Whitepoppy.org in the UK, the British Co-operative Women’s Guild had originally launched it as a pacifist symbol – not as a means to “denigrate” their husbands or their own families lost in war, but to (and this is where I thought Remembrance Day was rooted all along) always keep close to heart the horrors of war, and to protest diligently against any leader who might trivialise the horrors of war through hasty eagerness to employ it.

The red poppy, originally launched as a fundraising tool for veterans of the First World War, has its place in 1) filling the gap in the state’s woeful absence in caring adequately for the soldiers it’s sent out to war in the first place, and 2) to honour their service and remember its magnitude. That is all good. There is no opposition presented by a white poppy, which laments lives lost in conflict and wishes for a future free from war. I’m certain the majority of veterans wouldn’t disagree with those sentiments.

But the Legion, along with a lot of people confused in a fog of patriotism, see the white poppy as a meanspirited affront to their own remembrance sentiments. It isn’t. We have to be clear that disagreeing with war is not the same thing as wishing our own troops dead. It’s wishing that no more should die.

So, if you can get a hold of one, please do! There’s a Facebook page about it, and while you can certainly get white poppies from here, there may be local distributors near you as well. The Facebook page folks will probably know more.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, UK, , , ,


November 2010

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