St. John Telegraph-Journal, March 19, 2003
Tory leadership candidate strikes a chord with Canadians
by Janice Harvey, "A Civil Society"
Eight years ago this month I started writing this column for this
newspaper. Under the heading, 'A Civil Society,' I have tackled
a wide range of controversial issues, challenging the status quo,
mainstream thinking, and the exercise of power both locally and
globally. I don't know whether to be surprised or not, but last
week's column, "Only David Orchard can redeem the federal Conservative
party" elicited by far the greatest number of reader responses of
the 380 or so columns to which my e-mail address has been attached
over the years.
Obviously, I struck a nerve, as has David Orchard.
To recap my major points, over the past 20 years, the override
of the public interest by corporate interests has been unprecedented
in scale and scope. Federal politics was high-jacked by the Business
Council on National Issues (now the Canadian Council of Chief Executives),
through their agent then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and institutions
that defined our culture and our nation were crippled or dismantled.
I argued that far from using the Tory leadership campaign to pursue
a 'special interest' (opposition to NAFTA and other sovereignty-threatening
trade agreements), Mr. Orchard's pro-Canada position is deeply rooted
in the Tory tradition on which Canada was founded. Those who defend
the disintegrating forces of free trade, deregulation and privatization
ushered in by Mr. Mulroney, are the true special interest pleaders
in today's Tory party.
It is they who have recast the Tories in a new role which is out
of sync with the party's traditions. More important than the internal
logic of the party, however, this corporate agenda embodied by the
Conservatives (I can't bring myself to call them progressives),
is seriously out of sync with Canadians. The annihilation of the
PCs in the 1993 election and the subsequent characterization of
Mr. Mulroney as the most hated politician in Canadian history was
a less-than-subtle message from the electorate.
This analysis resonated with readers to the extent that many were
moved to write. Here's a small sampling of what I read:
From Mr. Perras in Alberta: "Without David as leader none of us
[referring to a number of friends] would even consider voting for
a traitorous party like the present PCs. Particularly galling is
the reality that [the PC party] still defends the policies of the
discredited Mulroney administration, undoubtedly one of the most
hated governments in Canadian history... If the PC party is to survive
as a viable alternative it must change by embracing its historical
past. It must believe in something near and dear to all Canadians,
the concept and reality of Canada itself... In my travels I have
found that many Canadians feel exactly the same as I do. This is
why the Orchard leadership bid has struck such a chord with me..."
From Mr. Butler in Vancouver: "I think you wrapped up...everything
that Mr. Orchard has been fighting for over the last 18 years....
This issue...lies at the very heart of what is wonderful about Canadians
and Canada and what has gone rotten about our leaders."
From Charles H. Tupper, direct descendent of one of the Fathers
of Confederation, Premier of Nova Scotia, and for a short time,
Prime Minister of Canada: "My great-great-grandfather is rolling
in his grave. His great spirit, his vision, more than just alive
in me, is eager to cheer David Orchard into the number one spot...
I believe Canada is all but a sinking ship if we don't. It is time
for me to enter the fray and make every effort in my power to make
a difference in hopes that we can turn things back on course with
complete integrity. I think the time is right. Disillusion is growing
out there and someone's got to do it."
Others who wrote were equally passionate in expressing their dismay
at what happened to Canada at the hands of the Tories (and perpetuated
by Jean Chretien, I must add), and that Mr. Orchard expresses their
own vision of what went wrong and what must be done to fix things.
(To be fair, there was one dissenting voice who supports NAFTA and
blames the Tory demise on the GST - a gift to the corporations,
by the way).
In the Globe and Mail last week, organizers for PC leadership contender
Peter MacKay were quoted as saying Mr. Orchard is not a "Tory's
Tory," whatever that is. More accurately, Mr. Orchard is not a Mulroney
Tory. From what I am hearing, that is the best news for the PC party
that has come along since 1993.
According to Mr. Perras, "if ... the Tory party is too 'conservatively'
set in it's way and can't change to reflect a Canadian vision, then
the country would be better served by not having the PC party...
[W]hat David has done so effectively with his leadership bid [is
tap] into the Canadian creation of great things from the manure
pile of present day political reality. And we are all better off
because of his decision to seek the leadership."
People left the Tories for a reason. They have to have a reason
to come back. Right now, Mr. Orchard is the only leadership candidate
offering that good reason. For that, the party should be thankful.
Janice Harvey is a freelance writer. Her column
appears on Wednesday. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org