David Orchard
The 1998 PC Leadership Race
  Contacts Schedule What You Can Do ! Home Français

Toronto Star, November 15, 1998

Conservatives should have principles

by Dalton Camp

The backside of the membership application form printed by the Progressive Conservative party for its leadership vote bears the following inspiring inscription:

"For the first time in the history of our country, a political party is inviting all Canadians to have a say in the selection of its next leader... Join now and participate in this groundbreaking process."

On the face of the application, the new member is asked to affix his signature to the document which also proclaims: "I support the aims and principles of the PC Party of Canada."

Tens of thousands must have signed on as PC party members without having the faintest idea of the "aims and principles" of the PC Party. Does anyone? Does Joe Clark?

No, it is not free trade. On that subject, there are three opinions at least, among Tories: some, like Clark, think it essential to the Canadian economy; others think it a sell-out of Canadian interests; still others don't believe it matters much, one way or another. Tories, in that regard, are no different than Liberals. Clark, like the present Prime Minister, was once opposed to North American free trade; now they are both champions of it.

But we are talking aims and principles here. The aim of the Tory party ought to be victory. Failing that, it should be respectability, without which there will never be victory. But as to the rest, the party must remain principled, whatever else, and nurture and champion a spirit of democracy and abhor and oppose violations against it. This is not hope for perfection but to warn against indifference, sheer ethical laziness and moral sloth.

This recent exercise in direct democracy has offended many Tories -- even a few I know in Ottawa -- not because of the flawed process and the corruption, but because the party's officials and leaders have tried to run and hide from the evidence, pretend it is "insignificant," and to hope it will go away. This is a style of crisis management whose first strategy is denial and the other is to deny responsibility.

In the Quebec riding of Longueil, 18 advance poll ballots were "accidentally thrown into the garbage by the deputy returning officer's father," according to a party spokesperson. Tough luck. As for David Orchard's 42 missing votes in the first round in the Red Deer poll, we have it from a former Mulroney cabinet minister in Alberta that the number was "insignificant." By a remarkable coincidence, the party's national director said the same thing. But the uncounted votes would have won the poll for Orchard over Clark.

Pity the party leadership; they have no idea what to do with or about Orchard. When he first indicated he might run, you may recall, another ex-minister in Mulroney's cabinet told the world that orchard "won't get a vote in Saskatchewan;" he won the province in the first round. Clark, in a display of dazzling arrogance, told viewers of Pamela Wallin Live he didn't care "what Orchard did" after the leadership race, but wanted to "keep some of his supporters." Frank Stronach, perhaps.

Since Orchard could not be marginalized, the next effort by the party's leadership was to pick up Clark's line that Orchard was a "tourist" in the party and would not stay a day longer than his "15 minutes" fame earned by his running for the leadership. This banality had a deeper meaning: in the riding of Matapédia-Matane, the voter turnout was 101 per cent -- 114 eligible voters and 177 votes cast. Ninety-five per cent of all votes were for Hugh Segal.

In all cases, every phone number given for those who produced membership certificates proved to be false. Is Clark saying these mysterious Segal supporters were real Tories -- or were they real "tourists"?

Of course, Orchard got it wrong. the party was indeed open for all to vote for the new leader, but certainly not for just anyone to run. the managers of this human comedy never envisioned a David Orchard when he appeared as a candidate, and was not a Peter Pocklington (greeted with open arms at the Mulroney convention), and was too bright for the media, and too well informed to intimidate in debate. The Tory upper crust lost its cool and its class.

It has been, meanwhile, a delight to read the corporate media. The day the voting improprieties surfaced in print, the new National Post carried the story on its front page. The old Globe, drawing its skirts about its ankles, ignored the story and printed its own version of reality, reporting that Orchard's organization was made up of Green Party supporters.

The Clark people put out the line that after Orchard lost the leadership contest, he would disappear. The irony of this is that Clark has said exactly the same thing about himself. Orchard has not said that, but if he heard Clark telling Wallin of his huge indifference towards Orchard's political future, he would have less reason to stay around.

At the end of the day, the mantra was that Orchard was not a conservative, this accusation repeated by many who know more about transcendentalism that about conservatism. And they also know much more about relativism. A conservative is what they say a conservative is -- a conservative is, well, a Peter White, or a Gerry St. Germain, or that caucus of castrated conservatives at Queen's Park -- part Tory, part federal Reform, part eunuch. A conservative is also Joe Clark, but not David Orchard. Joe Clark says so.

Back Top