Brunswick Telegraph Journal, March 12, 2003
Only Orchard can redeem the federal Conservative party
by Janice Harvey
It isn't surprising to read that the Tory establishment is more
than a little nervous about David Orchard's leadership candidacy.
While New Brunswick MP John Herron glibly dismisses Mr. Orchard
as a party 'hitchhiker,' Mr. Orchard was runner-up to Joe Clark's
successful bid last time around. That means his message of Canadian
nationalism rings true with voters, and that means he could well
move up the middle between the other PC leadership hopefuls to clinch
That would not be a good thing for the party establishment and
other candidates who are firmly associated with the new image cast
for the party over the past 20 years. With Brian Mulroney as the
standard bearer, the New Age Tories became synonymous with a global
corporate agenda cast in the penthouse offices of Canada's largest
companies, many with American parents.
Foreign investment rules, Canadian content rules, crown corporations
running airlines and trains, Petro-Canada which returned to Canadians
some benefits of a regional resource, regional economic development
corporations, public health care, unemployment insurance, the Auto
Pact, the CBC, the Canadian Wheat Board, Pierre Trudeau's 'just
society' - all were impediments to free wheeling and dealing across
the border and all stuck in the collective corporate craw.
Provoked to action by Pierre Trudeau's impertinence, the Business
Council on National Issues (BCNI, now called the Canadian Council
of Chief Executives) was formed to plot the takeover of Canadian
politics and the dismantling of those Canada-building institutions
that are (or were) integral to Canadian identity. In Brian Mulroney,
a captain of industry himself, they found a partner willing to stand
on their platform of free trade with the U.S., deregulation, and
privatization - a platform he denied until after his 1983 election.
Couched in the language of fear, the message to Canadians was that
our economy was collapsing under high debt, high taxes and protectionism.
Mr. Mulroney substituted the protection of Canadian interests with
the protection of corporate profits as embodied in the Canada-U.S.
Free Trade Agreement. (Because the pharmaceutical industry wasn't
included in the FTA, Mr. Mulroney covered that off with unprecedented
patent protection legislation, a move that would send health care
The upshot of the Tory sell-out to the BCNI was the party's near
annihilation, and their banishment to political purgatory.
How long they remain there depends on whether they understand from
whence their current irrelevancy came. Only one leadership candidate
- David Orchard - is speaking the truth on this matter. His message
is that what the New Age Tories now claim as the definition of conservatism
- unfettered free trade, open borders, small, non-interventionist
government - is in fact a gross aberration of the Tory legacy in
Mr. Orchard reminds us that in the first 70 years of our nation,
Tory prime ministers brought us the CPR, the CNR (by nationalizing
five railways), the CBC, the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Bank
of Canada. Heck, they brought us Canada, standing against repeated
efforts of Liberals to tie our fortunes to the business interests
south of the border through free trade.
To those who would say that taking our cues from long dead colonial
politicians is to be blind to the future, hear the prophetic words
of John A. Macdonald and Georges-Etienne Cartier. Macdonald called
free trade with the U.S. "sheer insanity" that would have "as its
inevitable result, annexation." Canada could not keep its political
independence after it had thrown away its economic independence,
he declared. Cartier went further, saying the end result would be
union of the two countries, "that is to say, our annihilation as
Today, with NAFTA as our new economic constitution, the economic
annexation of Canada is complete. Nothing illustrates this more
clearly than its Chapter 11 which allows foreign corporations to
sue signatory governments for profits lost or foregone as a result
of government regulation. Now, in those elite chambers that brought
us free trade, the chatter is about 'deep integration,' incorporating
a common currency, immigration policy and border security, labour
markets, the energy sector, environmental protection, social policy,
law enforcement, and foreign policy.
MacDonald and Cartier had it right, and David Orchard has it right.
We are facing the end of our country as we know it unless we repudiate
this agenda and turn back to our roots. Mr. Orchard's passionate
defence of Canada against the disintegrating forces of economic
agreements that supercede national governments, has its genesis
in the earliest debates between Whigs and Tories about the kind
of country Canada should and would be.
Many Canadians feel a great hurt was inflicted on Canada by Brian
Mulroney, who instigated the unravelling of nearly everything that
defined our collective self. Mr. Orchard's campaign is fundamentally
about healing a wound that was struck in the heart of our nation.
That's why people respond so favourably to him. He speaks for Canada,
not for narrow special interests.
In excoriating Mr. Orchard as a special interest pleader, the Tory
establishment is in deep denial. Their party was highjacked by special
interests - the BCNI - 20 years ago. The Scott Brisons, Peter MacKays
and Jim Prentices of the party are foot soldiers in a dead-end campaign
to protect the disastrous Mulroney legacy that ensued. The Tories'
only hope for redemption is to let Mr. Orchard take them back to
Otherwise, there is no reason for anyone to care.
Janice Harvey is
a freelance writer. Her column appears on Wednesday. She can be
reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org