National Post, Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Farmer and free-trade foe runs again
by Sheldon Alberts, Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA - David Orchard, the Saskatchewan organic
farmer and anti-free trade activist, announced yesterday he will
run for the Progressive Conservative party leadership amid charges
from an opponent that he is a special-interest candidate who has
no place in the party.
Mr. Orchard, who finished second to Joe Clark in the Tories' 1998
leadership race, said he is making another bid because he believes
Canada's sovereignty is threatened by increased economic integration
with the United States and the impact of the North American Free
"I think free trade could be a good idea if we actually had
it. I would be in favour of free trade -- free trade which preserves
Canada's power and independence," Mr. Orchard, 53, said at
an Ottawa news conference. "But there are clauses in the Canada-U.S.
trade agreements that in my view are not related to free trade and
which are jeopardizing our sovereignty, our prosperity and our future
Those remarks sparked an angry rebuke from Jim Prentice, a Calgary
lawyer who launched his own leadership bid last week. Mr. Prentice,
a former national party treasurer, said Mr. Orchard should quit
the party because of his opposition to the free trade deals negotiated
by Brian Mulroney, the former Tory prime minister.
"There is no room in the Progressive Conservative party for
a leader who doesn't believe in free trade. I think that David Orchard
represents a special interest group," Mr. Prentice said. "He
is not going to win the leadership of this party, and I think his
views are quite inconsistent with the views of the Conservative
party. I think he should be wondering why he is even in the party."
Mr. Orchard's activism has been a sore point for senior party
officials since his emergence in 1998 as a well-organized and articulate
opponent of NAFTA.
While his anti-NAFTA, pro-Kyoto policies are more popular within
the NDP, Mr. Orchard says he is a true Conservative in the tradition
of Sir John A. Macdonald, who opposed free trade with the United
States. "I don't feel like a fish out of water ... I would
say I am right in the mainstream of historical Tory tradition and
historical leadership of the Tory party," he said. "This
idea that you can't debate ideas -- whether it is trade or anything
else -- in a political party is, frankly, very narrow-minded."
Mr. Orchard said he opposes talks aimed at forging a coalition
or unity with the Alliance party. "I heard some of my colleagues
mentioning that they wanted to reduce the distance between the Conservative
party and the Alliance party. My goal is to reduce the distance
between the Conservative party and Canadian people," he said.
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