David Orchard
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Montreal Gazette, August 25, 1998

Wake up to NAFTA risk: Tory hopeful

by Philip Authier

It's time Canadians woke up to the dangers of the North American Free Trade Agreement and continued efforts to devolve powers to the provinces, maverick Conservativ leadership hopeful David Orchard said last night.

Despite consistent support in Quebec for both ideas, Orchard told a Montreal audience that if he becomes the next Tory leader he will lead a campaign to get out of the deal and then have the country lead the charge t end to further crippling economic globalization.

As for the constitutional debate, Orchard said the way to make Quebecers proud to be Canadians is by boosting the economy. He personally opposed the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords because they would have left the central government too weak. "I don't believe that the problems that Canada faces are constitutional so I don't think tinkering with the constitution is going to solve them," Orchard said. "It's going to create new ones. " If we put everyone in this country to work we'd have genuine pride in this country. French and English-speaking people would have pride in our nation."

It was Orchard's first campaign event in Quebec since becoming the second candidate in the race to replace Jean Charest. Orchard drew about 70 people - mostly anglophones - to a downtown hotel. Many found out about the event from posters on telephone poles around town. In the back of the room he peddled his anti-free trade book. The Fight For Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. At the end, organizers passed around the plate to pay for Orchard's travel costs.

That is typical of Orchard's grassroots "Campaign for Canada." An organic farme from Saskatchewan, Orchard is running his campaign on a shoestring. He's also running in a Conservative party pushing very un-conservative ideas. He argues the Conservatives broke with their 120 year history in endorsing free trade.

"I am a Conservative," he argued. "I want to conserve our nation. I want to conserve our economy. I want to conserve our environment and I want to conserve the border between ourselves and our powerful neighbour to the south."

How will he do it against such big name candidates as former prime minister Joe Clark and former backroomer Hugh Segal? Orchard said it's all up to the people. Orchard is trying to take advantage of the party's decision to open up its election process and go right to the people. Under the rules of the campaign to replace Jean Charest, anyone who has a membership card before Sept. 25 gets to vote for the leader.

"Many people say you don't have a hope," Orchard said. "When they understand it's now one member, one vote, everything changes." Orchard said he has no idea how many members he has signed up but said his opponents are astounded, pegging the figure at about 5,000. Last night's audience was a rag-ta mix of the curious and passionate but all listened politely to his presentation.

"I came here with an open mind," said Montrealer John Burcombe. "The more the merrier to get some new ideas and a new twist on things."

"Labels mean nothing to me," added another listener, Martin Brown, who describe himself as a commercial artist and satiris but who votes Liberal. "It's silly just to be loyal to one party. Free trade losing operation. It's designed to make wealthy people wealthier."

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