The Edmonton Journal, Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Attack on free trade has broad appeal
Jim Farrell The Edmonton Journal
A candidate for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative
party won the hearts of an eclectic mix of young NDP-types, disaffected
Liberals and grey-haired Conservatives Monday evening by lambasting
the North American Free Trade pact and other Brian Mulroney initiatives.
"My brand of conservatism puts the accent on 'conserve,' " David
Orchard told an audience of 100 people at the University of Alberta's
Tory Theatre Monday. "It's about improving the condition of the
people and maintaining the country. It's not about dismantling institutions
that have served Canadians for decades -- institutions like our
health care system and the military."
Orchard became the favourite of many Diefenbaker-style western
Conservatives when he left his Saskatchewan organic farm in 1998
to enter the Conservative leadership race. Orchard eventually finished
second to Joe Clark by organizing a grass-roots campaign to sign
up new party members. They liked his stands on environmental activism
and bought his message on Canadian sovereignty.
"The pundits said Orchard would finish dead last, that he would
get only five votes -- the votes of his family members," Orchard
said. "Instead, 12,000 people joined the party and voted for me."
Many political pundits have branded Orchard a traitor to conservative
values. Orchard maintains he wants to restore conservatism to its
roots by emulating the principles of 19th Century British Prime
Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
"Disraeli said power has only one duty -- to secure the social
welfare of the people," Orchard told his audience.
Many critics claim Orchard is anti-free trade because he wants
to scrap the North American Free Trade pact. Gilda Valli, a long-time
member of the Conservative party, disagrees.
"David Orchard is not anti-free trade," she said. "He's fair trade."
Long-haired Ph.D. student Kevin Brett was an NDP backer until
he learned about Orchard's campaign. Six months ago, Brett bought
a Conservative membership so he could vote for Orchard.
"I like his stand on sovereignty issues. I like his stand on trade
issues. And I like him because he's pro-Kyoto," Brett said. "I always
liked the social ideas of the NDP but unfortunately, they just don't
seem interested in balancing a budget."