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Halifax Chronicle-Herald, October 28, 2005

Orchard no ‘outsider’ in PC party

By Maraleena Repo

Responding to Marilla Stephenson's column, "Tories take a step back in time with convention," Halifax Chronicle-Herald, October 22, 2005:

"The Tories have opted for the old-fashioned delegated convention, after having watched the mangled machinations of the one-member, one-vote leadership method as deployed by the provincial Liberals. Then there was their fear of potential party hijacking, much like when outsider and anti-free-trader David Orchard pretty much took control of the last federal Progressive Conservative leadership convention, despite his opposition to a fundamental principle of the party. But Peter MacKay wanted to win badly enough that he made his winning deal with Orchard not to merge with the Canadian Alliance. He broke his word soon after, leaving the infamy of that deal to continuously haunt his political aspirations."

Marilla Stephenson’s Oct. 22 column, "Tories take a step back in time with convention," perpetuates various myths about David Orchard and his role in the extinguished Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

To Stephenson, Orchard was an "outsider and anti-free trader" who stood in "opposition to the fundamental principle of the party."

Far from being an "outsider," Orchard worked steadfastly in the party for six years, running for the leadership twice and contesting a seat for the House of Commons, receiving a higher percentage of votes then than any other Saskatchewan PC candidate in the 2000 election, and playing a significant role in the party’s policy and constitutional deliberations and conventions from 1998 on.

Likewise, far from being opposed to trade and the idea of free trade, Orchard has been an astute and well-informed critic of the actual signed free trade agreements, the FTA and NAFTA, and inside the PC party called for their thorough review in order to determine whether they work in Canada’s national interest.

(In the 2000 policy convention, the PC party adopted a policy of reviewing all our international trade agreements, including the FTA and NAFTA, to assess their impact on our environmental regulations; and Orchard’s call for a blue ribbon party panel to review the agreements in all their aspects was fully consistent with that policy.)

Not only that, but up to and including part of the Mulroney era, the PC party stood firmly opposed to any such free trade or reciprocity agreement with the United States.

In Brian Mulroney’s own words in 1984 (before being elected), "Free trade was decided on in an election in 1911. It affects Canadian sovereignty and we will have none of it, not during leadership campaigns or at any other time."

He added in an interview a little later: "This country could not survive with a policy of unfettered free trade." If anything, David Orchard’s thinking and doing was fully consistent with the party’s long history and practical policies.

Today, of course, few continue to uncritically praise these flawed trade deals that have caused no end of pain to Canada, and David Orchard’s expertise in the matter is widely recognized.

Last, Stephenson implies that the Orchard-MacKay convention deal which delivered Peter MacKay the leadership of the party, was "infamous." Readers might want to know that the well-publicized deal available on consisted of MacKay abiding by the party’s constitution and NOT pursuing a merger with the Canadian Alliance, setting up a blue ribbon committee to review the FTA and NAFTA, agreeing to put environmental and agricultural policies in the front and centre of the party’s platform (many such policies were already available from the party’s most recent policy convention) and removing the national director who had worked overtime to undermine party democracy in ridings where David Orchard had significant strength.

The only and real infamy was, and still is, that Peter "I’m not a merger candidate" MacKay, a lawyer, former Crown prosecutor and lawmaker in our Parliament, breached the signed agreement with David Orchard from which he had concretely benefited, and handed the historically significant founding party of Canada over to the Canadian Alliance, a Canadian version of the U.S. Republican party, thereby depriving this country of a real alternative to Liberal rule.

Marjaleena Repo of Saskatoon was a member of the last management committee of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 2002-2003; and campaign manager for David Orchard in 1998, 2000 and 2003 (present at the signing of the MacKay-Orchard agreement May 31, 2003).

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