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
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
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
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.