Halifax Sunday Herald, April 9, 2003
David Orchard and George W. Goliath
by Silver Donald Cameron
While the guns thunder in Iraq, small rancorous sounds perturb
the air in Canada - a contest for control of the fringe assembly
known as the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, once the
Alternative Governing Party. Oddly enough, the two facts are connected.
You do remember the Tories, right? Two decades back, Brian Mulroney
cobbled together a government dominated by hot-blooded Western evangelists,
cold-eyed Bay Street money-jugglers and wandering Quebec nationalists.
What the Mulroneyites shared was disdain for the institutions that
defined Canada, like medicare, unemployment insurance, family allowances,
ground rules for foreign investment, Canadian content rules, and
crown corporations operating broadcast networks, airlines, railways
In office, the Mulroneyites dismantled much of the distinctive
apparatus of Canadian nationhood, striving to weld us indissolubly
to the United States. Canadians, in turn, dismantled the Tories,
reducing them from 211 seats in 1984 to just two in the anti-Mulroney
firestorm of 1993. The Western evangelists went off to the Reform/Alliance
party. The Quebecers departed en Bloc. And we are still not finished
detesting Brian Mulroney.
Here is the first irony. The institutions the Mulroneyites scorned
- the national railroads, the CBC, the Canadian Wheat Board, the
Bank of Canada, protective tariffs, regional development agencies,
even Confederation - were often Tory achievements in the first place.
Liberals have always seen Canadians as individuals and North Americans;
they wanted to make us independent of the British Empire. The Tories
perceived us as a unique community in need of unique institutions;
they wanted to keep us independent of the American empire.
All of which made Mulroney a startling mutation in the party of
Macdonald, Borden, Bennett, Diefenbaker, Stanfield, even Clark.
But the boy from Baie Comeau had one golden virtue: his rickety
coalition won elections.
Here is the second irony. Five of the six current Tory leadership
candidates represent the malodorous Mulroney inheritance. The lesson
of 1993 - that Canadians want to be Canadian, and that 57% of us
currently want to be more independent of the U.S. - is lost on them.
Like the Alliance, they sound like U.S. Republicans in parkas.
The Tory brass regard David Orchard, the sixth candidate - who
finished second to Joe Clark in 1998 - as a devious, mock-Tory infiltrator,
a "hitch-hiker," a "special-interest pleader."
But Orchard, a bilingual organic farmer from small-town Saskatchewan,
is the only purebred Tory in the race - and also the only candidate
whose philosophy seems sufficiently broad, inclusive and rooted
in Canadian values to revive the Tories as a "big-tent"
party capable of forming a government.
"Over a century ago, Disraeli set out his guiding principles
for Toryism quite simply," says Orchard. "First, to elevate
the condition of the people, and second, to maintain the institutions
of the country.
"The choice before us is either permanent Liberal rule or
a rejuvenated mainstream Progressive Conservative party which steers
well clear of the Canadian Alliance. In the last election, far more
eligible Canadians didn't vote at all than voted for the Canadian
Alliance. Does anyone believe merging with the Alliance will attract
disillusioned youth? Aboriginals? New Canadians? Francophones?"
Orchard's supporters include novelist Margaret Atwood, artist Robert
Bateman, musicians Stompin' Tom Connors and Anton Kuerti, and former
corporate barons Adam Zimmerman and Bob Blair. And the heart of
his campaign is our foolishly sentimental attitude to the U.S.
We need to be good friends and trading partners, certainly - but
we also need to put our own interests first. NAFTA - a Mulroney
project - was supposed to give us guaranteed, regulated access to
U.S. markets. Yet softwood lumber, steel and agricultural products
face worse harassment than ever. Nova Scotia natural gas fuels industries
in New England, not the Maritimes.
Meanwhile NAFTA has given U.S. corporations rights superior to
those of Canadian corporations. Their corporations can sue our government
for wholly imaginary losses, for instance, and their right to profit
trumps our own health and safety regulations. Our surviving corporations
have reciprocal rights, of course. Marvelous. A level playing field
on which the Truro Tadpoles can challenge the New York Yankees.
Can Canada survive such prolonged erosion of its sovereignty -
let alone the "deep integration" now being bruited about
by the advocates of national self-mutilation? Their next Big Bright
Ideas include a common currency, a shared immigration regime, joint
border security, integrated labour markets, harmonized social policy,
and unified environmental, health, law enforcement, and foreign
policies. Welcome to Puerto Rico North. Subjugation without statehood.
And not a shot fired.
The central geopolitical issue for all countries today is their
relationship with Rambo America, and only Orchard seems to remember
the long tradition of hard-nosed, realistic Tory thought on that
topic. On April 9 he was running a strong second, with 454 delegates
versus front-runner Peter Mackay's 714.
Can he win? Not likely. But he's still the one potential leader
who just might inspire enough Canadians to put the old Tory party
back in the running.
Silver Donald Cameron
D'Escousse, NS B0E 1K0
Home page: www.islemadame.com/sdc
Weekly newspaper columns: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sdcns/join
Public speaking: www.atlanticspeakersbureau.com