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The Toronto Star, Saturday, June 19, 1993

Resisting the cozy U.S. embrace

By Heath Macquarrie

David Orchard, a fourth generation Saskatchewan farmer, national chairman of Citizens Concerned About Free Trade, is a lobbyist. But don't let that put you off. The country is now rife with lobbyists although the majority of them seem to be touting right-wing points of view.

His book, The Fight for Canada, is a hard-hitting denunciation of the Free Trade Agreement and those who brought its ills upon is.

Orchard presents a readable and exciting encapsulation of Canada's centuries-old resistance to the intrusions from its southern neighbor. There is today a euphoric tendency to regard Canada-U.S. confrontations as mere skirmishes between blood brothers. Orchard recalls that there have been bitter and powerful attacks against our territorial sovereignty fuelled by the avid bellicosity of U.S. political leaders.

In his recapitulation of the earlier economic and political pressures from the south, the author finds most of his heroes in the Conservative party. John A. Macdonald in 1891 and Robert Borden in 1911, saw that commercial union would be followed by political union.

But in our own time it is from the Progressive Conservative party that the chief villains spring. William Randolph Hearst is quoted as dubbing Brian Mulroney as "the most pro-American prime minister in Canada's history." Power hungry premiers, who have weakened the central government, are also culprits; they "allowed the North-South pull to grow even stronger."

It is Orchard's contention that in selling the FTA to the Canadian electorate in 1988, the government and its corporate elite allies misled the public. Instead of more jobs there came a host of plant closings and the movement of thousands of workers into the ranks of the jobless. After four years of free trade the unemployment rate exceeds 11 per cent.

Being a good pamphleteer, Orchard uses startling statistics and evaluations. In his denunciation of the Canadian negotiators he quotes one of their American counterparts, Clayton Yeutter: "We've signed a stunning new trade pact with Canada. The Canadians don't understand what they've signed. In 20 years they will be sucked into the U.S. economy."

Zealots are not noted for their sense of humor and there are few light passages in this book. The author sees worse things ahead. The cozy embrace of the United States will endanger Canada's cultural values and affect us in areas not essentially in the realm of trade. He sees NAFTA as compounding the agonies resulting from FTA. He says, "Cheap Canadian resources and cheap Mexican labor, both U.S. controlled, are what the North American Free Trade deal is all about."

Abrogation is the only way out of the economic and political morass. This can be accomplished only if the NDP and Liberals agree that in the next election their candidates will not oppose each other in seats that are normally Conservative, Reform or Bloc Quebecois.

The chances of such an electoral accommodation are nil. As Orchard points out, the Liberals can no longer hope to ride to power on anti-Mulroney sentiment alone. But recent events at the PC convention have restored the hopes of the office-hungry Liberals. The federal NDP, in a blunder of suicidal proportions, has apparently gone along with Premier Bob Rae's unpopular economic program and jettisoned its own much-vaunted platform. With the PCs cleaving to their rightist stance, the Liberals doubtless see themselves as the only place for the disaffected NDP voters to go. This might even be a fairly reasonable assumption.
The Fight for Canada is a one-sided book. Orchard brandishes statistics supportive of his views, suppressing others that might put the free trade agreement in a favourable light. He gets no marks for objectivity.

But, still, there are those consistently and painfully high unemployment figures, plant closings, food banks and soup kitchens. These, alas, are not indicators of the new Heaven and a new Earth promised by the authors of the Free Trade Agreement.

Senator Heath Macquarrie is the author of Red Tory Blues: A Political Memoir.

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