Editorial: Saint John Times Globe, August
PCs shouldn't ignore Mr. Orchard's views
The federal Tories took a great, democratic leap forward in deciding
to hold their most open leadership convention ever.
But some of the candidates have failed to take that democratic
thinking to its logical conclusion.
The big difference in this leadership race is that for the first
time, the federal Progressive Conservatives will allow anyone who
buys a party membership to vote for the new leader. Shell out $10
and you too can have a say in choosing the man whom Elsie Wayne
says will be the next prime minister of Canada.
They've abandoned the delegate selection process that has long
been a staple for their party and most political parties, and although
the new approach is not without its drawbacks, it is a welcome development
to open up this venerable party. But if the party is to attract
new members, even if some of them are of the instant variety, surely
the men who are vying for their vote and lasting allegiance should
deal with issues and arguments, not the slogans and sweet-talk of
an ad man.
Yet the candidate who most wants to talk about his ideas is dismissed
summarily by his rivals simply because his ideas are unorthodox
-- or rather, so orthodox that they've been supplanted by new conventional
This candidate is Saskatchewan farmer and anti-free trade activist
Mr. Orchard came to modest prominence in the mid-1980s as a leader
of the grassroots campaign that fought against the Free Trade Agreement
with the United States, and then continued the fight against NAFTA.
He is also an environmentalist and an organic wheat farmer. He also
knows a lot about how some other countries are doing some things
differently than Canada does -- and better.
His views on free trade -- that it undermines Canadian nationalism
and sovereignty -- harken back to the founder of the Tory party,
this country's first prime minister.
Yet two weekends ago, when the Tory candidates gathered here in
Saint John for a barbecue hosted by interim party leader and Saint
John MP Elsie Wayne, Mr. Orchard's views provoked hardly a response
worth noting from his rivals.
Could it be that they are ignoring him because they do not relish
the alternativ of actually debating him? Or do they think that by
simply downplaying the contrast between his ideas and their own,
he will lose credibility as the odd man out?
Mr. Orchard's ideas challenge the status quo within Canada and
within the party that last held power under Brian Mulroney. If his
analysis is so wrong, he should be an easy target for worthy opponents.
If he has contributions to make, his rivals should trim their sails
accordingly. But to let his views pass with as little comment as
they have from the other camps is disappointing.
We notice with interest an item in a national newspaper late last
week that Mr. Orchard's team is signing up Tories in droves.
One wonders if the Tories will be in for a surprise as the campaign
enters the fall, and the man they've treated as if he's out in left
field moves closer to centre stage.