Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, Tuesday, June 3rd, 2003
What's wrong with Orchard?
Some say the federal Tories are dead in the water now that Peter MacKay has won the leadership through a deal with party "maverick" David Orchard that had some delegates shouting "shame" and political opponents expressing glee.
But we're not at all sure this "gentleman's agreement" is a bad thing.
MacKay's error is optical in nature -- refusal to release the written deal that gives Orchard some say in the new Tory policy directions.
Since when did political parties decry new ideas? MacKay is a new leader and with that comes the expectation of some new directions still rooted in the party's philosophy.
And why are some Progressive Conservatives so stubborn about resisting Orchard's ideas? In particular, why is there so much bad blood in the party concerning MacKay's agreement with Orchard to review the party's position on free trade?
Does anyone in Canada think the Free Trade Agreement with the United States is working the way it was intended, when it was sold to the country by then Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney?
The key to public acceptance was Mulroney's assurance that growing cross-border trade would now be subject to rules administered by an independent authority that would ensure fairness, especially to this, the far smaller of the partners.
But no one told Canadians that the United States could and would so often simply ignore rulings in Canada's favour and keep on appealing them while hammering Canadian producers with punishing duties.
Look at softwood lumber, first and foremost. Big-time layoffs are being handed out at lumber operations across Northwestern Ontario, a pattern repeated earlier in other provinces, as the Americans continue to defy rulings and reality. It's been much the same with agriculture, steel and other commodities crucial to the Canadian economy because they rely on sizeable American consumption.
Orchard also will have the Tories examine environmental policy. Surely, given the rate at which species and their habitats are disappearing, the state of the coastal cod and salmon fisheries, and freakish weather caused by climate-changing industrial pollution, some new ideas are in order.
What are people afraid of, and why is it David Orchard?