David Orchard
The 1998 PC Leadership Race
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Toronto Star, July 19, 1998

Conservatism speaks with many voices

by Dalton Camp

Some objections have been raised in the media to the prospective entry of David Orchard into the Progressive Conservative party's national leadership race. The trouble with Orchard, say the objectors, is that he is not a conservative. The fact that Orchard keeps saying he is more conservative, in the traditional meaning, than are the conservatives has thus far not been persuasive to people like Lorne Gunther, who writes for Alberta Report and who is a Reformist.

It seems strange to me how we have come to have so many people who might be called genealogical conservatives and whose role in politics is in identifying true conservatives as opposed to Red Conservatives, like Joe Clark and Hugh Segal, and faux conservatives, like Orchard. My morning paper recently suggested Segal might be a "pinkish Tory," whereas Blue Tories, such as the Merger Tories in Toronto hoping to join Reform with the Progressive Conservatives, are seeking a candidate to preach their message.

This must surely be puzzling for readers hoping to keep abreast of current events. They must wonder, perhaps, why it is so hard for the media to tell one Tory from another when it is so easy to tell Liberals apart, if only because they seem all the same. If there are any Blue or Red Liberals, they are not identified as such. For truth, the Liberals are no longer Liberal in any historic or traditional sense. They more resemble neo-conservatives, something Blue Tories are likely to be but most Conservatives would rather not be.

The genealogical conservatives examine their candidates searching for clues to their ideological parentage: Burke? Macdonald? Adam Smith? Perhaps Ayn Rand? But the Liberals do not any longer claim a history, their antecedents are nameless.

Is David Orchard, the Saskatchewan organic farmer, also a Conservative? It has always been my argument that anyone who claims to be a Conservative is one. There is no litmus test, no bar to admission, or ban. Were I a British Conservative, I would accept the bone fides of John Gray, who was a Thatcher Tory and is now the voice of the new right in British Conservatism.

Gray has produced a modern thesis under the title False Dawn: The Delusions of Global capitalism. It reads as though it could have been written by David orchard, who wrote The Fight for Canada. Orchard, one of the original skeptics of free-market global capitalism, is joined by Gray: they could be colleagues in the same party.

"The truth is that free markets are creatures of state power," Gray has written, "and persist as long as the state is able to prevent human needs for security and the control of economic risk from finding political expression." Speaking of the United States -- as Orchard often does -- and its obsessive commitment to the global free market, Gray writes, "In the United States, fee markets have contributed to social breakdown on a scale unknown in any other developed country. Families are weaker in America than in any other developed country. At the same time, social order has been propped up by a policy of mass incarceration... Levels of inequality resemble those of Latin American countries more than those of any European society."

What is interesting about this mutuality of view, as between a Saskatchewan farmer and a Thatcherite Tory elitist, is that each can claim to represent a legitimate conservatism. But more interesting than that is the reaction of the print media to Orchard's proposed candidacy which has been to treat him as a heretic, outsider and non-person.

There are more serious issues than tax cuts and motherhood that should be discussed by the aspiring Tory leadership candidates. There is some evidence that the North American Free Trade Agreement is not the bonanza so many of its proponents believed. The C.D. Howe Institute, an institution not likely to approve of either Gray or Orchard, has published a study which strongly suggests Canada would be better off, in trade disputes with the United States, to take its complaint to the World Trade Organization than to appeal through the dispute settlement mechanism established under NAFTA.

At the same time, while the Liberal government has grovelled before every demand of the new world order of global free-market capitalism, the public benefits have been uneven or non-existent. What has happened since the NAFTA has been the disappearance of the national government which has been hijacked and fenced to world corporatism. Globalism is now in its ascendancy; government is in decline, like the Canadian dollar.

In my most recent column, I criticized friends of Brian Mulroney for nominating him for the Order of Canada and the committee for making him a Companion, the highest rank in the order, calling it a bad precedent. This was, in my opinion, a good shot, but it was aimed in the wrong direction. What I should have known was that almost all prime ministers have become Companions of the Order of Canada since its inception. It is not a precedent but a commonplace. For this, I apologize both to my friend Brian Mulroney and to his friends and to my readers. Otherwise, I remain unrepentant.

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