David Orchard
The 1998 PC Leadership Race
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New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, August 28, 1998

Tory candidate nudges party back to its roots

by Jackie Webster

David Orchard. One of the candidates for the leadership of the PC party, made necessary by the resignation of Jean Charest. Not yet a household name, but that is changing as the race heats up. His is a fresh new voice on the national scene and Tories who will cast their vote on October 24 would do well to pay more than passing attention to the Saskatchewan organic farmer.

In Saint John last weekend, the Tory hopefuls gathered and made their pitch for party support. Hugh Segal and former prime minister Joe Clark, both credible candidates, are perceived as the front runners.

There was Mr. Segal: witty, urbane, funny. Slick.

There was Mr. Clark: earnest, worthy, serious. Not slick. Both spoke of how they would rebuild the party. There was, however, a perception among some that no fire burns fiercely in either belly, though both must badly want the post.

Why else spend the languorous days of summer, crisscrossing the land, making their pitch while so many of those they would woo boated or sailed or golfed away the lazy days; the leadership race for the time very far from their thoughts.

Both men echo the Mulroney years, but from different standpoints. Mr. Segal, a longtime backroom operative, in policy matters not startlingly different from the prime minister he served, and Joe Clark, the antithesis of Brian Mulroney, but remembered as one who permitted himself to be outmanoeuvred by the same Mr. Mulroney who wanted to replace him. And did.

Then there is David Orchard.

What of this young man who, like Lochinvar, has come out of the West, and sent shock waves coursing through Ottawa's free traders with his opposition to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, its even more ominous extension, NAFTA and lately, to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment - MAI?

"The Conservative party has historically been the party opposed to free trade with the United States and has stood against the absorption of Canada into the U.S. economy," he said Saturday in Saint John.

"In the last 15 years, the party has strayed from this long-held and successful position and has lost its bearings. It is my goal to take the party back to the rock solid foundations that were built by the founders," he said. "The founders of the party -- George Etienne Cartier, John A. Macdonald, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Robert Borden and others -- fought to build a strong and domestically controlled Canadian economy." And that is as it should be, says Mr. Orchard. Already, he is in a position to say, "I told you so.

"Take the Ethyl additive, MMT. In late l996, the Canadian Parliament approved Bill C-29, officially the Manganese-Based Fuel Additive Act. It prohibited use of the additive, MMT, believed to be a hazard to public health and to the environment. The Ethyl Corp. product had been banned in Europe and in California, and in other areas of high pollution in the United States. Canada merely exercised its sovereignty in banning the transportation or importation of MMT.

Not so fast.

Ethyl Corp., of Virginia, launched a $347-million lawsuit against the Canadian government, which settled out of court, paying Ethyl close to $20-million and -- listen to this -- providing a written letter of apology. All this after the federal government was advised that Ethyl would likely win a challenge to the ban under the rules of NAFTA.

On the day that David Orchard spoke in Saint John of the risks to Canadian sovereignty inherent in NAFTA, came the revelation that the Canadian government has been dealing in secret with a case concerning the export of dangerous waste material.

The lawsuit, from Ohio-based company S.D. Myers, Inc., centres on a l995 Canadian government ban on the export of PCB contaminated waste. That ban was lifted in early l997, after U.S. firms announced they would complain under NAFTA.

Myers now wants compensation for lost profits during the period of the ban.

It seems apparent from these two cases alone that the Canadian government has its hands tied by NAFTA when it comes to protecting the environment and public health. Yet, among the leadership hopefuls, David Orchard is the only candidate who has steadfastly spoken out against the loss of Canadian sovereignty.

Critics complain that he is a one-note singer. Not so. He outlined at least four wide-ranging themes on which his campaign is built: An end to the deterioration of Canada's environment; opposition to the "misnamed" free trade agreements, damaging to the economy and to Canadian sovereignty; no more tinkering with the Constitution; and a stop to the devolution of more powers from the central government to the provinces.

The national government is the only institution that speaks for all Canadians, he said. Citing the adage, "he who pays the piper calls the tune," he calls for an end to the current system of corporate financing of political parties and a move towards a more democratic electoral system.

Almost anything you might want to learn o David Orchard can be found in his book: The Fight for Canada (Stoddart, l993), an eminently readable account of four centuries of resistance to American expansionism. He has provided a convincing historical analysis of the struggle waged by generations of Canadians to maintain their right to forge a society different from -- and perceived by them as more humane than -- that of their republican neighbors. The book is lively and relevant.

In any campaign, name-recognition is important. It has been a long time since Joe Clark was Joe Who? Hugh Segal, not as well known, except to students of the Mulroney years, but still becoming better known each day. On the other hand, David Orchard has a lot of catching up to do, name-recognition-wise, so remember that name: David Orchard, organic farmer from Saskatchewan with a message you just might want to hear.

Jackie Webster lives in Fredericton.

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