La presse, 23 January 2003
A Strange Creature
by Vincent Marissal
Forget for a moment all your political benchmarks and try to imagine
a conservative who militates against the North-American Free Trade
Agreement and for the Kyoto protocol; who wants a strong Canadian
army, but who is opposed firmly to any intervention in Iraq; and
who is ready to sacrifice the federal budget surpluses in order
to invest massively in the public health network.
To divert you still a bit more, let's add that this strange political
creature is bilingual and that he comes from deep within Saskatchewan,
where he manages an organic farm. Lastly, this original character
rejects any right-wing alliances and has dreams of revitalizing,
alone, a party that many have already buried.
Here, ladies and gentlemen, is David Orchard, a candidate for the
leadership of the Conservative Party, who finished second behind
Joe Clark in 1998. Of the four declared candidates (former minister
Heward Grafftey, deputy Peter MacKay and Calgary lawyer, Jim Prentice),
it is he who has the most powerful support base. Peter MacKay, presumed
front-runner of the leadership race (race - a strong word!),
should be wary: in a party with a depleted membership it is possible
to seize power by recruiting thousands of members - something which
Mr. Orchard can do very well.
In a tiny room, amidst pictures of former party leaders, Mr. Orchard
on Tuesday gave an odd press conference which ended in an invitation
addressed to about thirty demonstrators who surrounded the restaurant
- sympathetic listeners, of one mind, in small groups. The demonstrators
included a huge majority of anglophones and allophones devoted to
the cause of their anti-Free Trade crusade. It's Montreal, you understand...
Mr. Orchard's visit to Montreal East unfortunately passed without
notice. Unfortunately, I say, because this candidate for the leadership
of the Progressive Conservative Party is well worth a few minutes
of your time. Even if only for curiosity's sake. But also for the
sake of interest in how things develop, for Mr. Orchard, allowing
that he might be the chosen one, could very well find himself as
the head of the party formerly led by Brian Mulroney, Mr. Free Trade
Considering what remains of the Conservative Party, you will say
it's not very important. However to the contrary, this reveals at
just which point this party goes against the drift.