David Orchard's Lonely Quest

My apologies for the lengthy periods of downtime at this site. My host appears to be having a few problems. Most frustrating.

Also note that the seventh installment of the Carnival of the Canucks is up at GenX at 40. Go check out the Canuck-y linking goodness!

While attending the Guelph Organic Conference, having fantastic organic coffee and ice cream, I stumbled across a booth operated by David Orchard supporters. Other than a booth campaigning for Percy Schmeiser's coming fight with Monsanto in the Supreme Court of Canada, political booths at this conference were (I thought) few and far between. And as a chance to finally actually meet supporters of David Orchard, I decided to chat them up. Many bloggers, including centrist Andrew Spicer and right-wing Jay Currie are expecting David Orchard to join the NDP any time, now, so perhaps I should ask for a timetable.

They were very polite and very interesting to chat with. They were also, I thought, rather enlightening. Despite speculation that Mr. Orchard was about to take his influence to the NDP after the death of the PCs, it looks likely that he will remain the same electoral wildcard that he was in the 2000 election. The campaign workers were gathering support for Mr. Orchard's attempt to fight the merger between the PCs and the Alliance, and possibly resurrect the Progressive Conservative name in time for the next election. I couldn't help but think to myself, 'Poor David is still tilting at windmills'.

When I asked them whether David Orchard would consider lending his considerable strength to the NDP, the workers told me that they were taking a 'wait and see' attitude. They wanted to see 'what Jack would do for us'. One noted that Ed Broadbent had lost her back in the late 1980s when he accepted that appointment from Brian Mulroney. They noted that they were looking for a party as committed to fighting globalization as they were, and Jack Layton, at first glance, seemed to be offering a search for "a kinder, gentler globalization." "Good luck!" said one rather sardonically.

I think this speaks volumes of Mr. Orchard's position, and it speaks volumes of the direction Jack Layton has taken the NDP. Nobody's doubting that the NDP is clearly the most left-wing mainstream party in Canada, with strong leftist credentials, but the reluctance of Mr. Orchard's supporters to commit to this new tent of progressives suggests that Jack Layton may be successfully moving the NDP forward into a leftist stance that is not anti-American Canadian nationalist. And speaking as a Red Tory who supported David Orchard's quest to steer the PCs towards its progressive roots, I think I'm moving forward with Jack.

During my conversation with Orchard's supporters, I was handed a sheaf of newspaper clippings full of articles and opinion pieces describing, among other things, the fight to keep the PCs alive, David Orchard's various candidacies, the strain between the Red Tories and neo-conservatives and, most particularly, the impact of the Free Trade Agreement on Canada. There was a lot of talk about the threat of American ownership of Canadian business, our dependence upon American trade for our livelihoods, and the departure of our economic self-sufficiency.

I agree that anybody who tells you that the Free Trade Agreement has been painless for Canada these past sixteen years is a bald-faced liar. I've seen the emergence of inner-suburb ghettoes in what used to be strong working class neighbourhoods in Toronto. These neighbourhoods were fed by industrial factories. What happened to the factories? Killed by free trade.

But Free Trade was sixteen years ago. You don't see many (rational) people campaigning to repeal the Metric System, either. The dead factories have all been demolished, and killing the agreement now is not going to bring the neighbourhoods back. The Free Trade Agreement has also placed a number of other Canadian industries at the forefront of a large, new market. Canada's information sector continues to prosper, and international investment continues to flow into our country's largest cities. Toronto succeeds because of its place on the continent, its government-supported high quality of life, and the presence of the Free Trade Agreement to guarantee access to the North American market. After sixteen years of pain and suffering, we are finally starting to reap some benefits from this piece of paper. Now, if only we can convince the American administrations to play fair...

Globalization is not just about the emergence of trans-national corporations subsuming national authority, it's also about the emergence of trans-national groups to fight those corporations and promote a rational cooperation of nations on economically, environmentally and socially sustainable lines. It's about a global alliance of the Green Parties to promote rational environmental awareness. If the national unions can get their acts together, it's also about the emergence of a trans-national labour voice to demand fairness in the dealings between corporation and worker. In rejecting globalization in general and the United States in particular, Mr. Orchard rejects a lot of good people who can come to Canada's aid, and who Canadians should aid. What good is saving Canada if we don't save the world?

So this former card-carrying member of the National Party of Canada is not comfortable with David Orchard's fear (if that's not too strong a word) of the United States and its place in Canadian economics. Having seen some of the country and having married one of its citizens, I'm more convinced that I don't need to be anti-American in order to be a Canadian. I frankly don't need there to be a border between us for myself to remain a Canadian. My geography is only marginally a part of my identity.

And I respectfully disagree with Jay Currie when he looks to David Orchard joining the NDP as a sign of "all the nuts in one bin". It is possible to express leftist Canadian sentiments without being anti-American. There are plenty of Americans in the United States who would sign onto Jack Layton's platform, and I'm proud to call them my allies, not to mention my relatives.

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