David Orchard
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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."


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