David Orchard
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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 Conservatism.'"

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 and Right.

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 a Tory.

Jocelyn Carver’s column runs every Tuesday.

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