Nelson Daily News, March 4, 2003
Left, right and those lost in between might like Orchard
by Jocelyn Carver
"David Orchard is confusing a lot of
journalists who cannot understand his brand of 'Crunchy Granola
Just when I thought Canadian politics could not possibly be more
soporific, two anarchist friends of mine pinched me into a political
awakening. You see, they have just become members of the Progressive
Conservative Party of Canada. I rubbed my eyes, bleary as they are
from endless news clips of blathering politicians. I could see my
friends were not joking. And though my right ear has been deafened
by thunderous calls for tax cuts and privatization, and my left
ear suffers from too much shrill criticism, I was able to discern
the reason for this very odd turn of events.
David Orchard, an organic farmer from Saskatchewan and a self-described
sovereigntist, is once again running for the leadership of the Progressive
Conservative Party of Canada. He believes in environmental conservation
and the health of the nation, as evidenced by more than two decades
as an organic farmer. He is passionate about developing industry
and a reduction of barriers to trade, but he opposes NAFTA (despite
the fact that NAFTA is the brainchild of Mulroney's Tory government).
He believes in increasing funding and development of the Canadian
military, but does not support Canadian involvement in the imminent
war on Iraq. He believes that we must have the military capacity
to protect national borders, but he also believes in strengthening
and policing international laws and respecting the sovereignty of
other nations. He is a hard workin’ rural prairie boy who
can converse fluently in French and expresses appreciation for Quebec’s
dedication to culture and language. Orchard's politics certainly
reflect his profession and his province, but most importantly they
are coherent mixture of what is traditionally thought of as Left
David Orchard is confusing a lot of journalists, who cannot comprehend
his brand of “Crunchy Granola Conservatism.” But though
it is well developed, his platform is not complex. Orchard is a
politician steeped in the conservative tradition of “building
a great nation made up of great people.” Interestingly, this
is also the progressive/leftist/New Democrat tradition. And while
he is confusing the spin-doctors, he is gaining support from “regular
folks” across the spectrum.
Most of these “regular folks,” whether they define
themselves as being Left or Right are currently experiencing a common
dilemma, a deep dissatisfaction with political culture. In this
environment where Rightists control most of our powerful institutions
and the Leftists are occupied protecting the rights of those trampled
by them, a political void has been created. Very few people are
actually feeling represented by their traditional party choice,
regardless of its placement on the political spectrum.
Parties to the Right of the spectrum find themselves largely co-opted
by wealthy stakeholders, who are not individual voters but big business.
Tax cuts, multilateral trade agreements and government subsidies
are geared towards promoting the activities of trans- and multinational
corporations. Internally, emphasis on promoting the short-term economic
well being of big business makes it very difficult to allocate resources
to social causes like public health care and education. With regards
to foreign policy, Right wingers are generally stuck in the camp
of those who would go to war in order to protect relations with
our primary trading partner and neighbor.
Parties to the Left suffer from a reactionary status; stuck in
the role of protesting policies and actions as they arise. It leaves
them without a coherent platform that would provide a meaningful
political alternative. And while the Left uphold themselves as more
thoughtful and progressive, they have often been accused of caring
more about trees and animals than they do about people. Not a comforting
thought for the average voter.
To make matters worse, dissenting opinions are treated as a traitorous
act. Let’s say you believe - as many lefties do - in organic
food, environmental conservation, international human rights, and
national public health care. But you also believe in a strong Canadian
military and incentives for Canadian industry, and volunteering
for your favourite local charity. So what are you then? Liberal
with secret NDP leanings? A Green Party member with illicit Alliance
inclinations? Or are you merely someone left out in a barren political
landscape with no oasis in sight? Where is the political leadership
that reflects our diverse interests and common concerns?
Left or Right, Canadians are desperately seeking political representation
and they are willing to make unconventional choices to be heard.
This is David Orchard’s trump card, and the reason he came
in second in the last PC leadership race. How far might he go this
time? And which other parties might begin to embrace similar candidates
who actually have a vision for this country?
Imagine for a moment if our political leadership had the intelligence
and guts to present a platform that sewed together their opinions
on matters such as health, war, industry, and social services into
a coherent philosophy for Canada? Imagine being able to weigh your
own thoughtful opinions and cast a vote that reflected your greatest
hopes, not your greatest fears. Imagine trying to get someone in,
not keep someone out. It’s enough to turn an anarchist into
column runs every Tuesday.