The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Saturday, July
Former law student David Orchard earns full marks
Insightful study of free trade
By Howard McConnell
Almost two decades ago, on looking up from my desk I
saw a gimlet-eyed, nervously smiling first-year law
student regarding me somewhat anxiously. "I'm afraid
I've lost your legal writing assignment," I said. "I've
read it through, however, and although I can't hand it
back like the others I think it's worth eight out of
"I'm not sure it's that good," reflected David
Orchard. "I'd give it about a six." We finally
compromised on seven. Although Orchard decided not to
pursue further law studies, he finished easily in the
top 10 per cent of his first year class of roughly 100
In the passionate debate on free trade that has
wracked this country recently, the public has not seen
the national chairman of Citizens Concerned About Free
Trade as I saw the quiet, rather self-deprecating law
student 20 years ago, but tend to regard Orchard as
stubborn and humorless. That perception, I think, is
A fourth-generation populist farmer from Borden,
Orchard is a committed Canadian nationalist who, unlike
the late philosopher George Grant, believes it is not
yet too late to reverse the historical tide and preserve
a viable Canadian nationality and culture on this
continent. The abrogation of the free trade agreement
is, however, the necessary precondition.
Although John Crosbie was the only candidate in the
1983 Tory leadership race to advocate free trade, after
Brian Mulroney's election as prime minister the
following year virtually all of the party leadership
altered course. Is there any wonder that many Canadians
see this as a token of bad faith?
In the November 1988 federal election which gave
Mulroney his second consecutive majority, only luckless
John Turner had really opposed free trade, and two
months later the unpopular agreement was signed against
the wishes of a majority of Canadian people.
Conservatives argued that the continuing recession
since that time was not caused by free trade but by
hard-to-control global economic forces. Economies of
scale facilitated by the deal, however, have prompted
the relocation of Canadian industry south of the border.
Why would hard-headed managers not advise such a move
when U.S. costs are cheaper and there are now no or few
adverse tariff barriers?
Orchard argues that free trade has been a disaster
for this country and that control of Canada has already
passed out of the hands of Canadians into those of the
U.S. government. Economic integration is the precursor
to political integration.
The first-past-the-post voting system which confers a
strong parliamentary majority on a party achieving 40
per cent of the votes in a multi-party state is largely
to blame for the present mess. Only an electoral
coalition in which the Liberals and the NDP agree not to
run candidates against each other, Orchard argues, can
bring victory to an anti-free trade coalition. No
donations should be made by voters, moreover, until the
parties agree to such a coalition.
Perhaps Orchard's broad strategy has much to commend
it, but with Audrey McLaughlin's NDP currently running
at about eight per cent in the polls, would Jean
Chretien's Liberals enter into such an alliance? And are
Chretien's Liberals opposed to free trade or do they
merely wish to negotiate side deals? With Paul Martin
exerting ever greater influence in party councils, the
Liberals appear to be more and more gravitating towards
big business interests.
The Fight for Canada is not a dry economic treatise,
but an intensely readable and thoroughly researched plea
for a change of economic course. Orchard writes
gracefully, and has been exhaustively investigating the
whole area for more than six years. He has done his
He fleshes out the narrative with fascinating
historical sidelights. At a critical moment in 1775-76
French Canadians ensured the country's survival by
refusing to support the American invasion of Canada.
Neither the Annexation Manifesto of 1849, signed by
1,000 Montreal businessmen and seeking the union of
Canada and the United States, nor successive
"reciprocity" initiatives succeeded.
There were always Americans, nonetheless, who pressed
for a political merger. On one occasion U.S. Congressman
(and ex-President) John Quincy Adams asked the clerk of
the house to read the second Psalm: "Ask me, and I shall
give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the
uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." This
was scriptural sanction, Adams claimed, for the American
occupation of Oregon contrary to British and Canadian
But what grade should his former law professor give
Orchard for this enthralling book? Despite his professed
modesty, I would give him nine on a 10-point scale.
Anyone interested in the free trade controversy can read
this book with profit.
McConnell teaches law at the University of