By HEATHER SCOFFIELD
Globe and Mail Update
Halifax Stockwell Day and Alexa McDonough spent an awkward Remembrance Day together on Saturday, after the Canadian Alliance leader invited himself into the NDP leader's home turf for the elaborate memorial ceremony in this historic port city.
Ms. McDonough has laid a wreath in the Halifax ceremonies before, and so organizers were pleased to have her again this year. But the participation of a second political leader was unprecedented, and for many in the audience of about 2000, also unwelcome.
"He's just looking for votes. I think it's wrong," said Jerry Blumenthal, a local councillor.
"I'm not impressed with Stockwell," added 78-year-old Percy Lambert, a veteran of the Second World War.
While some of the ceremony participants said they didn't mind Mr. Day joining in, and Ms. McDonough said she had no problem with it, many others in the audience or who laid wreaths said Mr. Day was "opportunistic" and "inappropriate."
Ms. McDonough said she would not campaign today out of respect for the veterans, but she did attend several military events anyway, and spoke out about the need for the Liberals to better recognize and compensate aboriginal veterans.
Behind the scenes, NDP staff were seething at having their leader share a stage with a rival. However, throughout the ceremony, Mr. Day was hidden by the war memorial, and the cameras could only get a clear shot of Ms. McDonough.
Halifax regularly has one of the biggest Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada. With its history of shipping soldiers off to war from the port, and with the Department of National Defence one of the largest employers in the province of Nova Scotia, the day is widely observed here.
"It through a loop into us when we first heard they were both coming," said master of ceremonies Tom Waters, a navy commander. Mr. Day's staff called to ask if he could attend the ceremony three days in advance, Commander Waters said.
"He just said he wanted to be in a service, a Remembrance Day service.... It was a request that he made."
Organizers told Mr. Day's camp that they would accommodate him, but warned him to keep his political agenda out of sight.
"We told the security people...just to keep the political profile low until after the ceremony," Commander Waters said. "But it worked out well."
Ms. McDonough took the entire day off from campaigning, saying it would have been disrespectful.
"They'll have 15 more days to hear from politicians about what the options are, what the choices are. But, you know, I don't think today is the day to talk about whose majority is in danger, or whose policies are being advanced or squeezed. Remembrance Day is about a day of pause in the election."
Ms. McDonough, who is from Halifax, spent the afternoon with her mother, and then attended a legion dinner and dance in the evening.