SULLIVAN: Burnaby North-Seymour must be the most interesting riding in the country

Lucky us. If Burnaby North-Seymour isn’t the most interesting riding in all of Canada, it’s close. Just maybe, it ranks behind another local riding – Vancouver Granville, where Jody Wilson-Raybould stands in splendid isolation against the Big Red Machine, her former boss.

But Burnaby North-Seymour has it all. Consider:

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It’s the terminus of the Trans Mountain pipeline, where the great forces of energy, environment and government are arrayed for the final battle over climate change.

It features a sitting MP who is caught in the web of contradictions plaguing a government that one day announces a climate emergency and the very next day announces it will go ahead and build that damn pipeline anyway. How can Terry Beech be both for the pipeline and against it? “It’s complicated,” he says. You bet.

It’s the stage for the political comeback of the legendary Svend Robinson, who has emerged from the dark shadows of disgrace, his self-righteousness intact, ready to mount a crusade against reactionaries and other Conservatives.  

Then there’s Heather Leung, who somehow made it past the Conservative vetting process to become the Conservative candidate, even though she had a toxic anti-LGBTQ2 bias. Videos emerged in which she explained that our children are in danger of being recruited by gay “perverts” (!).

This in a riding featuring Canada’s first outwardly gay MP, the aforementioned Svend. 

It’s almost as if the Conservatives went looking for the least appropriate person in all the land to carry the Burnaby North-Seymour banner. Finally, they kicked her off the ticket, but she has inconveniently refused to go away, continuing to provide Svend and the others with free cannon fodder.

To round out the rainbow cast, we have Green Party candidate Amita Kuttner, who recently announced they (Kuttner’s preferred pronoun) consider themselves gender non-binary and pansexual, making them the exact opposite of candidate Leung.

Not only is Burnaby North-Seymour the most interesting riding in the country, it’s also a case study on how we’ve lost our way. The Trans Mountain pipeline issue reveals the limits of Liberal leadership: On the one hand, they have the guts and vision to declare a climate emergency and promise to mobilize all our resources to save the planet, yet the very next day, they decide to build the pipeline anyway, moving the Doomsday Clock a second closer to midnight. But that’s OK because it will create “thousands of solid middle class jobs for Canadians.” Those lucky few who survive the climate emergency, we hasten to add.

 But as breathtaking as that hypocrisy appears to be, nobody seems to care as we face an even greater threat: a sexual orientation crisis. And Svend and Heather and Amita are going to point fingers at each other until their fingers are tired. Film at 11.

Justin Trudeau must love this. I mean, he went out and bought that benighted pipeline for $4.5 billion of our money, making no one happy. But instead of being forced to defend the indefensible on the Burnaby North-Seymour battleground, he’s treated to a spat that could divert the focus from the pipeline issue all the way to Oct. 21, if he’s lucky. And that includes Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who is already trying to explain away the embarrassing fact that he’s not an insurance broker but he is an American.

You can bet there’s more to come. Encouraged by the success of these blossoming scandals, party operatives are feverishly ploughing through the digital archives looking for evidence of well-aged malfeasance on the part of this or that candidate. 

This jockeying for top place on the podium of progressive purity, while no doubt important, is a distraction from the greater issue requiring our immediate attention. Last month has just been declared the hottest September on record, the latest in an alarming string of hottest months on record, but it seems we’re too busy being mean to each other to notice.

Somehow, because this is Canada, we’ve been insulated from the harsh realities of the world so long we’ve lost the capacity to deal with real trouble. If we take our future seriously at all, we have to look at Burnaby North-Seymour and shake our heads.

But at least it’s fascinating, in a cursed kind of way.

p.sullivan@breakthroughpr.com

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