Ottawa Citizen, Friday, January 20, 2006
The beginning of the end
The Conservative party has demonstrated
from its origins in 2003 that it can't be trusted
by David Orchard
Monday's election is important for several reasons.
Long before the current campaign, the now front-running
Conservative party revealed its fatal shortcomings on
major issues facing Canada, as well as in its own
ethical conduct. Canadians need to be reminded of these
flaws before they vote on Jan. 23.
On the international stage, Mr. Harper would fold
Canada tighter into the U.S. grip. He is prepared to
negotiate Canada's entry into the U.S. missile-defence
project. He would pull Canada from its Kyoto commitments
and enter a "North American" agreement. Mr. Harper, his
foreign-affairs critic, Stockwell Day, and his deputy
leader, Peter MacKay, were vociferous in their support
for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. While the vast majority
of Canadians – French- and English-speaking – are
grateful to former prime minister Jean Chretien for
keeping Canada out, Mr. Harper, Mr. Day and Mr. MacKay
would have had Canada participating in the illegal
invasion and occupation of Iraq, and Canadian women and
men would today be coming home from Iraq in body bags.
On the domestic front, we may well have another
Quebec referendum during the mandate of the next federal
Who then will rally and speak for the federalist
forces at the national level? Who will speak for Canada?
In 1980, Pierre Trudeau did; in 1995, it was Mr.
Chretien. If Mr. Harper holds power after the election,
who believes he will be able to inspire Quebecers to
remain in Canada? His past writings attacking
bilingualism as "the God that failed," his advocacy of a
firewall around Alberta, and his lack of passion for and
roots in French Canada are lethal obstacles to such an
effort in Quebec.
Mr. Harper's view that "whether Canada ends up as one
national government or two national governments or
several national governments is ... secondary" is not
one that can hold the nation together.
I believe there is only one party with the strength,
will and history to hold our country together and that
is the Liberal party.
And what is the position of this new Conservative
party on aboriginal people, another key part of Canadian
society? One of Mr. Harper's principal advisers is a man
named Thomas Flanagan, who came here from the United
States and has made a career of attacking the rights of
aboriginal people. His book, First Nations? Second
Thoughts, sneers at the very the idea of treaty
rights. The Canadian Alliance position was for
privatization of the native reserves, which means the
outright assimilation of aboriginal people and their
Agriculture is a major Canadian industry. The
Canadian Wheat Board is the world's largest marketer of
wheat and barley and, although almost unknown to
Canadians, the most prestigious marketing board in the
world. It is Canada's greatest net earner of foreign
currency and one of the few remaining defences for
western grain farmers. (Most recently, it played a key
role in preventing the damaging release of genetically
modified wheat in our country.) The new Conservatives
have repeatedly stated their intention to dismantle and
destroy the powers of the Canadian Wheat Board. Without
the Wheat Board, our grain industry will move, virtually
overnight, into U.S. hands and we will see even more
farmers driven off the land.
Mr. Harper and his colleagues, although campaigning
as friends of the farmer, revealed their true colours
when they blocked an all-party investigation into the
exorbitant profits made by the giant U.S. meat packers
at the expense of Canadian farmers during the BSE
The new Conservative party has run a campaign focused
on ethics. For months Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay have
been talking loudly and sanctimoniously about honesty,
integrity and trustworthiness in our public figures and
promising to "clean up" Ottawa. Well, the ethics of Mr.
Harper and Mr. MacKay are, unfortunately, something I
happen to know about.
In the last leadership race of the Progressive
Conservative party, in 2003, Mr. MacKay and I went into
the convention with the two largest blocks of delegates.
At the end of the day, Mr. MacKay sought my support. We
negotiated an agreement, put it in writing and signed
it. Point number one of our agreement was no merger or
joint candidates with the Canadian Alliance. I and the
majority of my delegates then delivered our part of the
bargain – we voted for Mr. MacKay and made him leader of
the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Afterwards, what did Peter MacKay do? Mr. Harper
urged him to abandon his commitments to the membership
of the PC Party and his agreement with me, and to merge
the party into the Canadian Alliance. This the two men
did – in a blatantly fraudulent manner. They arranged to
stack the ratification vote of the PC party, whose
members had steadfastly opposed merging with the
Alliance – by allowing tens of thousands of Alliance
members to join the PC party to overwhelm our existing
membership and the voting process itself.
They then trumpeted a so-called 90-per-cent majority
for the merger and destroyed the founding party of
Canada, but not before stealing the party's colours, its
reputation as a moderate centrist party, its history of
achievement and half its name. These are the two men who
would now lecture the rest of the political spectrum in
Canada about ethics.
For all of these these reasons, I urge Canadians to
look long and hard before buying the dangerous brew Mr.
Harper is attempting to sell us on Jan. 23.
David Orchard ran for the leadership of the federal
Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He is
the author of The Fight for Canada – Four Centuries of
Resistance to American Expansionism. E-mail:
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