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Brantford Expositor, December 11, 2002

Canada first, says PC who wants Clark's job

by Richard Beales

He wants Canada to scrap its free trade agreements with the United States and Mexico. He's in favour the Kyoto accord, wants labelling on all genetically modified foods and is against private funding of political parties.

David Orchard may not sound to most observers like the average Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidate, but he would disagree with that assessment.

"That depends on what you call average," the single 52-year-old organic farmer from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, said Tuesday during a visit to the Expositor. "I farm three miles from the Diefenbacker homestead, and some thought (former Prime Minister John) Diefenbacker wasn't an average Progressive Conservative when he won the leadership.

"That's in the eye of the beholder a little bit."

The man who finished second to Joe Clark in the 1998 PC vote feels his sovereignty first ideals are closer to traditional Toryism than anything we're seeing in the party today.

Orchard said the Conservatives have traditionally been the anti-free trade party, having fought the Liberals on the issue both in 1891 and 1911. Only in the 1980's, when Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister, did that position change, he said.

Orchard has been criss-crossing the country for the past six weeks to drum up support for another leadership bid. He won't decide whether he's going to vie to become Clark's successor until January, he said, but he's definitely leaning that way.

After his visit to the Expositor, he spoke to about 50 people at the St. Paul Avenue branch of the Brantford Public Library. Supporters were selling his books and tapes at a side table, as well as memberships to the PC Party.

Orchard recognizes that his platform goes against the blue-Tory policies brought in by Mulroney and continued through the party's rebuilding days. But for a $10 membership, he said, "You can change that party, rebuild that direction."

The direction Orchard is heading is one that places Canadian sovereignty above all else, and seeks to rid the country of unnecessary American influence, be it political, economic or cultural. Orchard hopes this process of $10 democracy not only helps get his views heard, but gets him selected as party leader. By buying a membership card, PC members get to elect one of the their riding association's 10 delegates to the leadership convention.

In the 14 years since the first free-trade agreement with the U.S. was signed, Orchard told the crowd, 10,000 companies have been taken over by
American interests. He also railed against those who would have us adopt a common currency with the U.S., saying that will mean a merger with the U.S. federal reserve and "an end to our monetary or fiscal independence."

Orchard said he's not against trade, pointing out that Saskatchewan is Canada's most trade-dependent province. And he said there's nothing wrong with true free trade. It's the terms of 1989 and 1994 agreements that put Canada at a continual competitive disadvantage.

Those terms dictate that 60% of Canada's natural gas must go to the Americans, he said, and that other energy sources such as petroleum from the tar sands "goes across the border at zero per cent royalty."

Orchard especially dislikes Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which "gives the right to foreign companies to sue the Canadian government."

Ethyl Corporation of Virginia was one of 15 U.S. companies to sue Canada, after the federal government banned one of its products, fuel additive MMT. Even though California and some European nations also banned the additive, Ethyl sued only Canada, for $350 million. Why? Because it could.

"In a matter of months," Orchard said, "the government capitulated completely."

Canadian foreign policy has also started to reflect U.S. interests, he said. While Canada resisted the call to arms in Viet Nam, Cuba and Grenada, it has not done so in Yugoslavia and may not in Iraq, should the U.S. declare war.

Canadians must stand up for their own positions, he said, adding that a good start would be to exercise clauses in the free-trade agreements which allow Canada to cancel its participation with six months notice to the U.S. and Mexico, and revert to previously established World Trade Organization agreements.

Orchard acknowledged that business interests would fight against such a move, but said a move to provide public funding of political parties would go a long way toward correcting that problem.

He noticed that both the Tories and the Liberals, at various times, campaigned against free trade before flopping on that position once in power. "They know what they need to say to get elected, and then they reverse themselves, (to satisfy campaign supporters)," he said.

"We have to have a system of public funding of our political parties."


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