PM cultivates the Orchard
By Silver Donald Cameron
There's a rumour out there that Paul Martin is
courting David Orchard to join the Liberals. It’s a
Orchard, you will recall, is the former Progressive
Conservative leadership candidate who opposed the Free
Trade Agreement negotiated by the revered Brian
Mulroney. Opponents of free trade believed – wrongly, as
it turned out – that the agreement doomed such cherished
social programs as medicare, and ensured that Canadian
opinions and values would inexorably merge with American
Didn’t happen. Polls show Canadian opinion differs
more sharply from U.S. opinion than ever.
Supporters of free trade believed – wrongly, as it
turned out – that free trade would give Canadian
enterprises guaranteed access to U.S. markets,
decisively ending the interminable cross-border
bickering about softwood lumber, agricultural products
and other trade issues.
Didn’t happen. If you still believe it will, go sing
some Irish songs with Brian Mulroney and the ghost of
Peter MacKay believed – wrongly, as it turned out –
that if he promised David Orchard that he wouldn’t lead
the Progressive Conservatives (remember that phrase?)
into a merger, but then immediately did what he promised
he wouldn’t do, nobody would really care or remember.
Stephen Harper believed – wrongly, as it turned out –
that if he were the leader of something called The
Conservative Party of Canada, the electorate would be
snookered into seeing it as the respectable Progressive
Conservative Party, not just a new disguise for the
rabble of the righteous right previously known as the
Canadian Alliance. (Remember that phrase?)
And I believed – wrongly, as it turned out – that
Darrell Dexter would become Premier of Nova Scotia in
Ain’t life wonderful? Don’t you love the way the gods
always put a wobble in the cue ball?
The Liberals, let us concede, are smug, arrogant,
opportunistic and corrupt. Always were. But they have
one golden virtue: they are not the Conservatives.
I’ve seen the cycle over and over again, sonny. In
office, the Liberals gradually become insufferable. That
gives rise to a Tory interlude. Mind you, the Liberals
can ripen for as much as 22 years, which they did under
King and St. Laurent. I was 20 years old before I heard
the terms "federal government" and "Liberal" separated
for the first time.
Then the Tories take office. Cold-eyed corporate
types and messianic madmen crowd the bridge deck,
ordering a cleanout of the grotty bilges. Within days,
they start throwing out the babies with the bilge water.
The country is appalled; the conservatives are
decimated; the whole cycle begins again.
Paul Martin believed – wrongly – his coronation would
not be fatally undermined by the antics of Jean
Chretien’s associates. So now he faces an ethics crisis.
Enter David Orchard.
"Mr. Speaker," says the new Liberal MP for Borden,
Sask., "I have some questions for the honourable deputy
leader of the Opposition. I hold before the House a
handwritten agreement signed by myself. Would Mr. MacKay
agree that this is also his signature on it? Yes? And
would he further agree that the first item is, ‘No
merger, joint candidates w(ith) Alliance?’ Yes? And was
the party he represents not formed by just such a
merger, enthusiastically negotiated by himself? Yes?
"Would he also admit that this signed agreement calls
for a review of the free trade agreement and of NAFTA?
Yes? And has his party undertaken any such review? No?
"Mr. Speaker, I further ask the honourable member to
confirm that the vaporization of the Progressive
Conservative party under his leadership has driven away
former leaders and leadership candidates like Joe Clark,
Scott Brison and Belinda Stronach, former federal
ministers such as Flora MacDonald, Heward Grafftey and
Sinclair Stevens, senators such as Lowell Murray, and
former provincial premiers such as Brian Peckford?
"And is Mr. MacKay aware that the president of the PC
party in 2003, who supported the merger, voted Liberal
in 2004 and intends to run as a Liberal in the next
election? Does he deny that, even as we speak, some of
these distinguished Canadians are in court seeking to
have the merger quashed as illegal?
"Mr. Speaker, my fundamental question to the
honourable member is this: by what conceivable process
of twisted logic does he presume to lecture anyone on
Now, sonny, you may not agree with David Orchard. You
may think Peter MacKay’s behaviour – and Stephen
Harper’s – was correct and proper. Doesn’t matter. If
they’re forced to defend their behaviour against Orchard
as well as Stronach, Brison and the others, they’ll
never get the word "Gomery" out of their mouths. The
election will become a referendum on the legitimacy of
By the time you read this, David Orchard may be a
Liberal. Or he may not. Who knows? But it’s a
deliciously wicked prospect all the same.