David Orchard
Articles by David Orchard
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What society will be built?

by David Orchard

Published in the Calgary Herald, April 3, 2002 in a slightly edited version as "Alliance-PC cooperation doomed: deep roots of the Conservative party make it the only national alternative, David Orchard claims." Also published in the Montreal Gazette, PEI Guardian and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in the original version under different headlines, the Star-Phoenix's, "Trying to 'unite the right' electoral dead end."

The Canadian Reform Alliance has chosen a new leader and once again assorted pundits, politicians and commentators are beating the drum for "union" between the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. Giving notice that he intends to "negotiate from strength," Mr. Harper has instructed the PC party that its first step should be to change its constitution -- which requires the party to field a candidate in every riding in each election. He has let it be known that there are some PC members of whom he does not approve: "Joe Clark is not a leader who seems able or willing to face realities" and "You can't build a party around the David Orchards and Dalton Camps of this world."

All of which ignores a fundamental question. Why would the PCs move towards policies and a party that the majority of Canadians won't vote for? The last election found the CA with a new telegenic leader, full coffers, a wave of favourable publicity, and yet no breakthrough with the electorate which did not accept the policies offered.

For the PC party to join, merge or "cooperate with" the Alliance would require an abandonment of the roots and national reach of the party that created Canada and put in place many of the institutions which have enabled the country to survive and grow.

The entire notion of "uniting the right" in Canada is an electoral dead end. Only two parties have formed government in Canada, the Liberals and Conservatives and neither has ever done so on a right wing platform. In fact, the PCs have more often been successful running to the left, or progressive, side of the Liberals, as John Diefenbaker proved so effectively when he achieved a sweeping victory attacking the Liberals for selling out the trans-Canada pipeline to U.S. interests.

On key issues the positions of Mr. Harper and the CA are diametrically opposed to the traditions of the PC party.

When Alliance MP Jim Pankiw launched his attack on official bilingualism in the House of Commons, Stephen Harper immediately offered his support. Writing under the National Citizen's Coalition motto, "More freedom through less government," Mr. Harper declared: "bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions."

As a national party forged in the alliance between George Étienne Cartier and John A. Macdonald extending through to Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark, the PC party knows in its bones that bilingualism is a fundamental cornerstone of Canada upon which any successful national party must stand, and stand without equivocation.

On first nations issues the Alliance calls for the privatization of reserves and an end to what it calls "race based" policies -- in other words, it advocates assimilation of Natives. Stephen Harper's right hand man, Tom Flanagan, has made a career attacking Metis and aboriginal rights. The Tory party, going back to the roots of Canada and the pact between the Crown and first nations right up through John Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights and the extension, finally, of the franchise to Native Canadians, has stood on very different grounds regarding aboriginal people, a fact that is well understood in Native and non-Native communities across Canada.

On these two issues alone cooperation or union with the CA would doom the PC party, but there are more.

The decision facing our generation involves our relationship with the U.S. Is Canada going to allow itself to be assimilated economically, culturally, monetarily, militarily and finally politically, by our powerful neighbour? In spite of campaign promises to the contrary, the Liberals are moving the country quickly down that path. The Alliance and Mr. Harper have no problem with this approach; they would proceed even more rapidly towards removing the border between Canada and the U.S.

Shortly after the last election, Stephen Harper attacked Canada as a "second-tier socialistic country," and called upon Canada's richest province to "begin building another home." Albertans have opted for "American enterprise and individualism," he informed us, culminating his article with an exhortation: "Let us build a society on Alberta values." Moving towards this view of Canada would remove the PCs from the national stage.

Only a moderate, mainstream PC party can offer a viable alternative to the Liberals, with a solid chance of forming a government.

In an election between Stephen Harper and, say, Paul Martin, there is no room for a right wing PC party to try to insert itself between those two men. The opening which presents itself is to the progressive side of the Liberals, saying no to the abandonment of Canada's sovereignty, no to adopting the U.S. dollar, no to the ongoing destruction of our environment and yes to a vision of Canada as a powerful nation, standing on its own two feet.

These are issues the Alliance can not and will not touch. They are issues that could remove the Liberals from power and replace them with a revitalized PC party reconnected to its historical roots.

I say to Mr. Harper, "Let us build a society on Canadian values."

David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada -- Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and was runner-up to Joe Clark in the last federal Progressive Conservative leadership contest. He farms in Borden, SK and can be reached at tel (306) 664-8443 or by e-mail at davidorchard@sasktel.net

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