Listowel Banner (ON), March 9, 2005
Orchard impresses students. Political enigma visits LDSS class
By Greg Bisch
"I would have voted for him," said Caitlin Bellamy, a
student in Joe Simpson’s Gr. 12 politics class at
Listowel District Secondary School, after a visit to the
class by former Progressive Conservative party
leadership candidate David Orchard, Feb. 28. "I like the
idea that we (Canada) have to be strong for ourselves. I
hope in the future his view comes into play."
Walking through the packed halls of LDSS with his
timid two-person entourage (one of the two being his
brother Grant) Mr. Orchard's presence didn't illicit
many second glances from the students (and teachers) on
his way to Mr. Simpson's classroom.
It was a different story inside the politics class,
however, as about 40 students listened intently (with
few blurry eyed exceptions) to Mr. Orchard for almost an
hour, and when they had the opportunity to, hurled
questions at the author, politician, and organic farmer
from Saskatchewan. Mr. Simpson’s students (along with a
scattering from Scott Mitchell's Gr. 12 class) were well
coached on the political significance of the man in
front of them.
"All these pointed questions — these are very good
questions," he remarked with a smile after being asked
by Gr. 12 student Chud Yuzwa-Reilly where he, as a
former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate,
stands with the newly formed Conservative party. "You
could put our press gallery to shame with your pointed
A figure in Canadian politics for many years, Mr.
Orchard is most known for his agreement with
Conservative politician Peter MacKay, that should have
prevented the merger of the Progressive Conservatives
and the Canadian Alliance to create the Conservative
Party of Canada in 2003.
The agreement was signed during a Progressive
Conservative leadership convention in May 2003, when Mr.
MacKay needed Mr. Orchard’s support to secure his
leadership of the PCs. Just over six months later, Mr.
MacKay went back on the agreement, and the Conservative
Party of Canada was formed.
"That leaves me as a political orphan," Mr. Orchard
said in response to Miss Yuzwa-Reilly’s question. "I
don’t have a political party, really. . . I don’t have a
Mr. Orchard and other former Progressive
Conservatives went to court to try to block the merger
with the Canadian Alliance, but failed to stop the
union. However, he continues to wrangle with the
Conservatives in court, attempting to sue the party for
holding $70,000 of his funds — $55,000 from donations to
his 2003 leadership campaign — which he already spent
during the campaign and that he claims the Conservatives
grabbed when he fought against the merger.
Mr. Orchard was "making a swing through southwestern
Ontario" when he stopped by Mr. Simpson’s class. He said
he has several public meetings and speaking engagements
in the area, including meetings in London, Cambridge,
Cornwall and at Osgoode Hall Law School of York
University in Toronto.
Other than Canada's sovereignty from the U.S., Mr.
Orchard promotes environmentalism, and respect for
international law. He is the author of the national best
seller "The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of
Resistance to American Expansionism" and the founder of
the Citizens Concerned About Free Trade.
"It is my first time in Listowel and it is a pleasure
to see your town and see the area, and to have a chance
to speak here," he said. "I am speaking across the
country because I don’t want to see Canada assimilated
into our powerful neighbour, south of the border. We
have had a long history of struggling to maintain our
independence as a country and these so-called
'free-trade agreements' have accelerated the integration
into that of the United States."
With that, the farmer and politician, caught the
attention of his audience, and set the tone for his
"We often lose sight of the view held by some of the
leaders you see here," said Mr. Orchard, pointing at a
long row of portraits depicting former Canadian prime
ministers hanging above Mr. Simpson’s chalkboard. "They
fought to keep Canada a separate country. There was a
big push in the early days to see our country integrated
into the United States . . . We were the very first
country in the world to be invaded by the new United
States of America in 1775."
"There was an alliance of aboriginal people, French
Canadians and the British that fought back and the
Americans were pushed out of Canada," he said, then
added some history of the British-American War of 1812
and the heroism of Sir Isaac Brock and Shawnee leader
Tecumseh saving Canada from U.S. rule.
He told that students about the attempts around 1866
by the U.S. to have Canada annexed to the south.
"At that time we built our railway tracts 10 inches
wider than those of the United States to prevent the
U.S. troop trains from moving into Canada," Mr. Orchard
informed the young political enthusiasts. "It was this
threat from the south of the border that lead the
leaders of the Canadian colonies to sit down and instead
of joining the U.S., they negotiated the Confederation
Mr. Orchard added the struggle to have Canada
integrated into the U.S. didn't stop there.
"The push that kept coming was that we should have a
free trade agreement, that we should have one economy,"
"Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, founder of Canada,
said if Canada and the United States did not have an
economic border, soon there would not be a political
He expressed disappointment with the signing of the
Free Trade Agreement in 1988.
"Mr. (Brian) Mulroney got back into power (in 1988)
with just 43 per cent of the vote and signed this
agreement that is integrating our country more and more
into the United States."
Mr. Orchard said Canada never really got free trade.
"Sections of this agreement allows U.S. industry to
buy up freely Canadian companies," he said. "We have had
12,000 Canadian companies taken over by U.S. owners
since we signed the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement."