Monday, April 11, 2005

Learning from History through Wikipedia

Was reading up on the Battle of Vimy Ridge on Wikepedia. My great-grandfather James Wainwright fought in that battle, so it has resonance for me. I noticed that Julian Byng was a commander at that battle. Byng later became involved in the King-Byng affair in his role as Governor General of Canada by refusing to dissolve parliament so that Prime Minister Mackenzie King, having lost seat-wise but not vote-wise to the Conservatives, could call another election and, he hoped, get out of his minority government situation.

The Liberals have held power for much of Canadian history, although the founding party of Canada was the Conservative party, more sympathetic to close ties with Britain. The Progressive party broke up, but its members were involved in the more Western Social Credit movement and later the Reform and Alliance parties.

One of the things that I find interesting about this is that the Liberals then and now do well by appealing to the middle and taking advantage of the fact that certain members of other parties will jump ship to them from time to time for ideological or pragmatic reasons.

Another interesting thing is that the King-Byng affair involved King appealing to nationalistic feelings in his struggle with Byng. This did not do lasting damage to Byng's reputation, since he was a war hero, but it probably served as a diversion from attention to a financial scandal that the Liberal party was embroiled in at the time. The current Liberal government is also in a minority situation, is opposed by a conservative movement that is in a state of flux, though a converging one, and is also involved in a scandal. It will be interesting to see how things pan out.