David Orchard
The 1998 PC Leadership Race
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David Orchard Launches His Candidacy For The Leadership Of The Progressive Conservative Party At His Old Elementary School In Halcyonia, Borden, Saskatchewan, June 29, '98

Today I am here to announce my candidacy for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. In 1983, before he abruptly reversed himself, Brian Mulroney said that "free trade is a danger to Canadian sovereignty". I share that view. That has been the position of the Conservative Party for a hundred years and that is the position that I will carry in my campaign across this country.

Many people find it ironic and puzzling as to why I would join the party that I have fought so long against. For thirteen years in the public eye, I've opposed the policies of the Mulroney administration on a non-partisan basis as Chair of Citizens Concerned About Free Trade. And now I have chosen to step into the partisan fray for two main reasons. First, the Conservative Party has publicly called for new ideas and new faces. It has backed up this call by changing its constitution so that now, for the first time, the leader will be selected not on the basis of a delegate convention as it did in the past but on a universal ballot so that every person who takes a ten dollar membership in the party will have the right to vote for the leader on October 24th.

Secondly, the Conservative Party has historically been the party that opposed free trade with the United States and stood against the absorption of Canada into the U.S. economy. In the last fifteen years, the party, in my view, has strayed from this long held and successful position and has now lost its bearings. It is my goal to take the party back to the rock solid foundations that were built by the early founders of the Party, George Etienne Cartier, John A. Macdonald, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Robert Borden and others who fought to build a strong and domestically-controlled Canadian economy. They built the railway across this country in the face of tremendous opposition from the U.S. railway interests; created Confederation when the country, the colonies, were faced with the threat of invasion from the United States.

So this is the Party that did that and I'm in the race to take it back to the vision that those men had of a great and independent nation, not simply a satellite of our neighbour.

My campaign will have four key themes. The first will be the whole question of globalization or "free trade" as it's called. In my view, the pendulum has swung far too far one way in terms of handing over the powers that were fought for by the citizens of this country, into the hands of foreign corporations who are not elected or accountable to anyone.

Canada's main experience with globalization has, of course, been the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA. And for Canada, globalization essentially means Americanization. It's as simple as that. We've had ten years of experience living with "free trade." At the time when we entered the free trade deal, our unemployment rate was roughly the same as the U.S. rate and had been for years. Today it is double the U.S. rate. We're seeing the Americanization of all aspects of the Canadian society and the economy. Six thousand Canadians companies have been taken over in the ten years of the free trade deal, mostly by American corporations. This includes our great national railway, CN Rail, which has been sold and is now 70% U.S.-owned. And it's in the process of selling off other lines across the country into other American corporations.

And the push now, of course, is for a common currency. The Wall Street Journal is calling on Canada and Mexico to adopt the U.S. dollar as the common currency for the North American Free Trade zone. This would mean, of course, that we would have to abolish the Bank of Canada. We would become the thirteenth Federal Reserve district of the United States, and once you lose your currency, you lose any ability to have an independent economic or fiscal policy.

We've seen an increase of north-south trade and a dramatic decrease of east-west trade across our country between the provinces as a result of the free trade deal, and this has political ramifications: when you no longer trade or interchange between the regions of the country, all of the ties are turned north and south.

So we need a national policy to build a Canadian economy. We should have a Canadian car, a Canadian aerospace industry, a Canadian merchant fleet to take our goods around the world; a Canadian movie industry. I'm a farmer as are many of you in this room. If you want to buy a major piece of farm equipment that's made in Canada you may no longer do so. You buy imported farm equipment even though we're a major market for farm machinery.

But people say that "this is inevitable, globalization is inevitable, there's nothing you can do about it, you can't turn the clock back, you're tilting at windmills". That's not true. Switzerland has stayed out of the European Union and now has an unemployment rate half the European Union's rate. Norway had a raging debate in 1994 about whether it would join the European Union. Most of their political parties, almost all of the media, told the Norwegians, you'd better vote for this, otherwise Norway's going to become the sick man of Europe. "We'll be isolated, we'll be left alone," the people were told. But Norwegians thought their own thoughts, voted against it and where is Norway today? It has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, 3-1/2 per cent; the fastest growing economy in Europe; the richest social programmes in the world; no debt, no deficit and no downsizing; free health care for everyone; free dental care for everyone under the age of nineteen. How did the Norwegians do that? They did that by holding control of their resources; their publicly-owned oil company, Stat Oil, uses the revenue from these natural resources to provide those programmes to Norwegians. And in Canada, we're doing just the opposite, selling off everything that we possibly can and at fire-sale prices at that.

There's no reason in a country like Canada to have a single Canadian unemployed with the resources that we have. Yet we see people begging on the streets in the cities across Canada in numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

We're told constantly, "we're too small a country to build our own economy, we have to have access to that big U.S. market." In reality, geographically, Canada is the second-largest nation on the face of the earth. And population-wise at thirty million people, we have more people than Britain had when it ruled the globe. So nobody can tell us we're too small. Sweden has its own automotive industry, its own defence industry, it's own machinery industry - and this in a country that you could fit inside the province of Saskatchewan. It's, of course, a question of political will, not size.

The second theme of my campaign will turn around the constitutional question. We've seen repeated attempts in the last ten years to change the Canadian Constitution, and, as you know, I've fought against all of them. I believe that the problems in Canada are not constitutional; therefore, the solution is not going to be found in tinkering with the Constitution. Just after the Quebec referendum in 1995, a poll came out showing that only17 per cent of Quebeckers thought that Constitutional problems were a priority. Quebeckers thought the same problems were a priority as people did elsewhere Canada: we have to have jobs and a thriving economy and a country that we can take pride in; not in seeing how fast we can downsize it and sell it off. I'm opposed to devolving the power of the central government to the provinces because the national government is the only institution we have that speaks for all Canadians. If we weaken the national government as the Reform Party is advocating doing and as the Liberals are busy doing by handing out all of the powers to the provinces, we're going to end up with ten weak balkanized fiefdoms and a central government that's incapable of acting in the national will. And in my view that would lead to the break-up of Canada. The current government in a vain attempt to appease the separatists of Quebec and the separatists of western Canada is busy dismantling the central government. It won't work. Separatists want their own country. They're not gong to be appeased by getting a few more powers from the central government but the dismantling will destroy the government that men like John A. Macdonald, John Diefenbaker and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, fought for so many years to build, to make sure that the powers of central government stayed in federal hands.

The third step in my platform will be the environment. I'm an organic farmer and have been so for over twenty years. We changed our farm practice over twenty-three years ago because we were worried about the impact of farm chemicals on the environment and on human health. I also fought actively against the importation of high-level U.S. nuclear waste into Canada because I don't want to see Canada become a waste dump for nuclear waste from other countries around the world. I don't see that as our destiny.

I've stood against clear-cutting our forests in the north because we have clear and viable alternatives. Again, Switzerland is an example. The Swiss have been cutting their forests for two hundred and fifty years on a sustainable basis. They have as much wood now as they had then because they are managing it properly. If we in Canada continue to cut our trees the way we're doing we won't have any forests left to speak of in 25 years let alone 250 years.

And the fourth aspect of my policy platform will be the issue of democracy and electoral reform. We have an outdated voting system in Canada, the first past the post system, the old British system which means that usually we have a government elected in Ottawa that the majority of the population has voted against. We saw this dramatically in the 1988 free trade election when Brian Mulroney called that election a "referendum on the free trade agreement." Well, the majority voted against him as he only got 43 per cent of the vote; most Canadians voted for parties opposing the free trade deal but we got stuck with the deal anyway under the political system that we have.

Most European countries, in fact, most democratic countries around the world, are moving to a system of proportional representation which means that if you get 10% of the votes in the country, you get 10% of the seats in the parliament. That's a system that would suddenly give us much more democracy. It would give a voice for the smaller parties that are not heard on the national stage and it would not accentuate the regionalism that we've presently have in this country. For example, we had a situation where a party, in the election before last, received, I believe, 13% of the vote, and it ended up as the official opposition. This situation creates cynicism and anger and frustration in the population, which can be alleviated by moving to a system of proportional representation.

And then, of course, we have to clean up the whole system of party financing. Right now political parties in Canada can accept donations from corporations, including foreign ones. So we have, for instance, Mr. Mulroney promising never to talk about free trade, and when he gets into power, eight days after his election, he holds his first press conference at Ronald Reagan's side and announces he'd be entering talks on free trade. We also have Mr. Chretien in 1993 campaigning across the country against the "Mulroney sellouts." He promised that he would renegotiate or abrogate both the Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA. He got into power and what did he do? He ratified those agreements without changing a single comma in them. So this is a problem, I believe, because those parties are getting their financing from the corporations who are dictating their policies to them. There's an old adage, "He who pays the piper calls the tune". And that's exactly what's happening. We have to put the financing of our political parties into the hands of the Canadian taxpayer and no one else. Quebec has moved a long way in this regard, they've outlawed donations from corporations or unions to any political parties in Quebec and they've restricted individual donations to $2,000. So that's a model legislation that can be taken even farther so that we no longer have corporations, foreign or domestic, financing our political parties. These two reforms would go a long way to change the malaise in the country today.

Regarding national unity we have a situation that at the same time as our federal government is crying crocodile tears about national unity, it is busy selling off the very institutions that hold our country together. The national railway, CN Rail, the key link that held this country together, headquartered in Montreal, going from coast to coast, the best railway in North America, sold off. It sold all the rail lines of northern Manitoba including the Port of Churchill to a private company called Omnitrax of Denver. So this is the crux of the matter: you can not sell off these institutions and then pretend that you're for national unity. It can't be done.

Today I'm asking all Canadians who agree with the positions that I've outlined, to take a ten dollar membership in the Conservative Party and turn that party around. If enough people take a membership and vote for me on October 24th, we can completely rejuvenate the Party and return it back to its roots. So I will take questions from the media.

(Bilingual question period ensues.)

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