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Now Magazine, 5 June, 2003

A real party pooper:
Outsider David Orchard proves to be straw that breaks Alliance's back

by John Bacher


IF YOU SLEPT THROUGH THAT TELEVISED late-Saturday-night (May 31) moment during the federal Progressive Conservatives' leadership convention when red-green Tory David Orchard threw his support to Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay -- for a price -- you missed the official demise of American political ideology in Canada. It might as well have been the War of 1812. Canadians are finally repelling the Yanks, or more exactly their Republican party expression, and the proof is that the new Tory leader is honour-bound to forgo unity talks with the U.S.-centric Alliance party.

Right-wingers will no doubt continue to beat the Republican drum: Stockwell Day will commit to any and all of Bush's wars, and Ernie Eves will pump weird American-style ideas like mortgage deductibility. But thanks to an organic farmer from Saskatchewan, those forces will never be able to join hands federally. Not that there's much to unite, with the Alliance moving rapidly toward endangered-species status.

Nonetheless, Alliance secret agents stalked the convention. Leadership contender Craig Chandler trumpeted a "Unite the right" slogan and urged the repeal of the Rand formula for union dues collection, a move that would downgrade our labour laws to the equivalent of those in such "right to work'' states as Mississippi. He also recommended the abolition of the Canadian Wheat Board, which Orchard praised in his convention speech. And Chandler topped it all off with an appeal to imitate the U.S. Deep South's disenfranchisement of prisoners.

Then he dramatically withdrew from the race to endorse Calgary oil lawyer and Kyoto Accord foe Jim Prentice, who was heading up a stop-MacKay effort. Candidate Scott Brison, whose main aim was to reverse retiring leader Joe Clark's policy of non-cooperation with the disintegrating Alliance, also joined the assault.

Orchard's supporters, a diverse collection of left-wing mavericks and traditional red Tories, supported Clark on the 301 rule, which commits the Tories to running candidates in every constituency, a firewall against a pact with the Alliance. And Orchard himself has declared he is even more hostile to Stephen Harperites than he is to free trade; which for an impassioned nationalist is saying quite a lot.

One expects Orchard to have good leveraging opportunities after winning the leader his post. He has said publicly that his support for Clark in the last leadership race won new Tory party environment policies, particularly Clark's call for banning sulphur in gasoline, a major source of deadly air. If MacKay keeps his commitment to snub the Alliance and Orchard does what Orchard does best ? keeping the pressure on issues like fostering rail over roads and implementing Kyoto ? then Canadians will be one step closer to reclaiming their true nature.

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