“Who will speak for Canada?”
DAVID ORCHARD’s speaking notes delivered at January 10, 2006 press conference at Liberal candidate Chris Axworthy’s campaign office, Saskatoon, SK
It is a pleasure to be here today, Chris, to offer you my support in Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, my home riding. My family has farmed at Borden for over a hundred years -- I’m the fourth generation on the farm there -- and I’m pleased you are running once again in our riding.
I’m going to make a few comments about the election and then will be happy to take questions.
Throughout its history Canada has faced two reoccurring perils -- the danger of assimilation into our powerful southern neighbour and the threat of internal breakup.
In my view, this is an important election that we are involved in today. There are serious dangers, I think, for our country. One of the big winners in this election is going to be the separatist movement in the province of Quebec.
In triggering an election at this time, both Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton were prepared to play with the fires of Quebec separatism in an attempt to increase their own positions in the House of Commons. It is a dangerous and a short-sighted effort that could hurt our country badly and give a powerful momentum to those working very hard to take our country apart.
If Mr. Harper wins a minority government, he will be governing with the support of the Bloc, a party whose primary aim, whose number one platform position, is to take Quebec out of Canada. It is not hard to see what the quid pro quo will be. Mr. Harper has said openly that he is prepared to weaken the national government -- the only institution that speaks for all Canadians -- and hand out more of its powers to the provinces. Well, the Bloc will certainly be right there with him on that.
The process of devolving the powers of our national institutions to the provinces will be another major step forward for the separatists in their strategy to take Quebec out of Canada step by step -- étape-par-étape -- and a big boost for both the Bloc and the Parti Québecois.
We may well be facing another Quebec referendum during the mandate of the next federal parliament. Mr. Parizeau has laid out the separatist strategy quite clearly. It’s like a hockey game, he said. The first period is for the Bloc to win a clear majority of seats in this federal election. The second period is for the PQ to win the next provincial election. Both of these goals are looking increasingly achievable. The third period is the referendum with the organizing clout of a majority of both the federal and provincial seats in the separatist camp.
Who then will rally and speak for the federalist forces at the national level? Who will speak for Canada? In 1980, Mr. Trudeau did, in 1995, Mr. Chrétien. If Mr. Harper holds power after the election, who believes he will be able to inspire Quebecers to remain in Canada? His past writings attacking bilingualism as “the God that failed,” his advocacy of a firewall around Alberta and his lack of roots in French Canada are just a few of the lethal obstacles his message would face in Quebec.
For these reasons, among others, I believe there is only one party that is capable of holding our country together and that is the party for which Chris is a candidate.
If the Conservatives win a majority, then what can we expect? Let’s look at a few of their other policy positions. Agriculture is a big industry in our province; it’s a big industry in this riding, as you all know. The Canadian Wheat Board is the world’s largest marketer of wheat and barley, Canada’s largest net earner of foreign currency and one of the few remaining support systems left for western grain farmers. Without it we would probably have had the damaging release of genetically modified wheat in our country. The new Conservatives have repeatedly stated their intention to dismantle and destroy the powers of the Canadian Wheat Board. Without the Wheat Board, our grain industry will move, virtually overnight, into U.S. hands and we’ll see even more farmers driven off the land. To his credit, Mr. Goodale and the Liberal cabinet have refused to bow to U.S. pressure to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.
The new Conservative Party would move quickly to give the giant U.S. grain companies exactly what they want in Canada. We saw that in the BSE crisis. Which party was it that moved to block an investigation into the exorbitant profits made by the U.S. based multinationals which control Canada’s meat packing industry? There was unanimous all-party support, except from Mr. Harper’s party, which stepped forward to protect these giant corporations from an examination of their books. This is just one example. I believe farmers across Canada and agriculture in general, would be badly hurt by a victory of the new Conservative party.
On the international stage, what would happen to our country if Mr. Harper
and the Conservatives win a majority? Both Stephen Harper and his deputy, Peter
MacKay, were adamant in their support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Both men
are trying to deny this now. But I was there. I debated Mr. MacKay on this very
question as the bombs began to fall. He was lambasting Prime Minister Chrétien
for being a coward in not backing the American bombardment of Iraq and offered
his full support for the U.S. attack. Then both Stephen Harper and his foreign
affairs critic, Stockwell Day, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, a
foreign newspaper, slamming their own government. In their article, published on
March 28, 2003, they wrote:
“Today the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet PM Chrétien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations. This is a serious mistake… The Canadian Alliance -- the official opposition in Parliament -- supports the American and British position…”
It couldn’t be much clearer than that. While the vast majority of Canadians -- French and English speaking -- are grateful to Prime Minister Chrétien for his courage, Mr. Harper, Mr. Day and Mr. MacKay would have had Canada participating in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, and today Canadian women and men would be coming home in body bags.
Aboriginal people are a major component of our society in this province -- what is the position of this new party on Aboriginal questions? One of Mr. Harper’s principal advisors is a man named Thomas Flanagan. Mr. Flanagan came here from the United States and has made a career attacking the rights of Aboriginal people. He wrote his book, First Nation? Second Thoughts, sneering at the very the idea of treaty rights. The Canadian Alliance position was for privatization of the Native reserves and the deliberate assimilation of Aboriginal people and their cultures.
I notice this new Conservative Party has run a campaign focused on ethics. For months Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay have been talking loudly about honesty, integrity and trustworthiness in our public figures. Well, the ethics of Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay are unfortunately something I happen to know about -- from personal experience.
Some of you will remember the last leadership convention of the PC party in 2003. Mr. MacKay and I went into that convention with the two largest blocks of delegates. At the end of the day, Mr. MacKay sought my support. We negotiated an agreement. We put it in writing and we both signed it. Mr. MacKay is a lawyer. He knows the meaning of a signature. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye and swore that he would be living by the terms of the agreement. The agreement was to honour the constitution of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada -- the party he was about to assume the leadership of -- and to run Progressive Conservative candidates in every election in every riding across the country. Point number one of our agreement was that there was to be no merger or joint candidates with the Canadian Alliance.
After signing our contract, we went down to the convention floor and held a scrum in front of the media and outlined the terms of our agreement to the country. Then I and the majority of my delegates delivered our part of the bargain. We voted for Mr. MacKay and made him leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Afterwards, what did Peter MacKay do? Mr. Harper urged him to abandon his commitments to the PC Party and his agreement with me, and to merge the party into the Canada Alliance. This the two men did -- in a blatantly fraudulent manner. They arranged to stack the ratification vote of the PC party, whose members had steadfastly opposed merging with the Alliance -- by allowing tens of thousands of Alliance members to join the PC Party to overwhelm our existing membership and the voting process itself. They then trumpeted a so-called 90% majority for the merger and destroyed the founding party of Canada. These are the two men who would now lecture the rest of the political spectrum in Canada about ethics.
To top it off, on a personal level, Mr. Harper, Mr. MacKay, and the new Conservative Party of Canada seized $ 70,000 of donations that had been made to my leadership campaign in the Progressive Conservative party -- donations that should have been returned to me within 48 hours of my sending them in to PC party headquarters in 2003. That was two and a half years ago. They are still holding that money today and are attempting to blackmail me into signing a commitment that I will never sue Peter MacKay or Stephen Harper for their role in creating this new, so-called Conservative Party of Canada. Their lawyers have said that if I’ll sign that commitment, then they’ll release my money to me. These are the men who clothe themselves in white robes -- as paragons of virtue -- telling us day after day they are going to run a government based on honesty, ethics and integrity.
For all of these reasons, I’m urging Canadians to look long and hard before buying what Mr. Harper is attempting to sell them on January 23rd.
In closing, I believe that in this riding, Chris Axworthy, with his experience at both the federal and provincial level, would make a strong MP. The Conservative party has been using a slogan “It’s time for a change.” If I could borrow that slogan in the Wanuskewin riding -- currently held by Maurice Vellacott, formerly a Reformer, then Canadian Alliance, now calling himself a Conservative -- I sincerely believe it’s time for a change and I hope you’ll be the agent of that change, Chris.
MEDIA QUESTION: Mr. Orchard, some might argue that you have a personal axe to grind with the Conservative Party. How could you convince voters that it’s really the Liberals you support and not the Conservatives you’re against?
DAVID ORCHARD: Well, I’m doing both. The men behind this new so-called Conservative party stole the name and the reputation of the Progressive Conservative Party in a manner, which I pointed out, was fraudulent and deceitful. Then they stole the colours of the Party and now they are even calling themselves “Tories,” as they march across the country, when the views of the party they represent would have Sir John A MacDonald and John Diefenbaker turning in their graves.
I believe these people are imposters and I believe they would like to take our country far to the right and deep into U.S. control. I also believe that the only force capable on a national basis of counterbalancing their thrust is the Liberal Party of Canada.
I spoke about Quebec. On the ground in Quebec, the Liberal Party is the vehicle that has consistently fought the forces that would break up our country. Like it or not, in two referendums, those fighting for national unity were led by the Liberal leaders Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. Today, it is the Liberal Party that is leading the fight against separatism, and is in my view, the only vehicle with the strength and will to hold this country together.
MEDIA QUESTION: Where do things stand right now as far as trying to get your money back?
DAVID ORCHARD: We will be going to court at the end of this month to attempt once again to force the new Conservative Party to honour an agreement it with me made over a year ago to pay back my money. I accepted and signed their offer. Then they wouldn’t pay the money. When it came time to hand over the cheque, they said, “Oh, but just a minute. Before we give you the funds, we want you to sign a promise that you won’t sue Peter MacKay or Stephen Harper or anyone involved for their actions in merging the two parties.” That demand had nothing whatsoever to do with the case of my $70,000. They are openly attempting to take my constitutional rights away and blackmail me with my own money. These are donations made to my campaign by citizens from across Canada, given under our country’s electoral laws, and that are now in the coffers of a completely different political party, one whose formation I opposed, a party that has just grabbed them. Might is right, so what are you going to do about it, is their message. That is where things stand on that front.
MEDIA QUESTION: Did you consider running for the Liberal Party in this election?
DAVID ORCHARD: We had a number of discussions about that, yes. It wasn’t in the stars this time around.
MEDIA QUESTION: Does that leave an opening for a future election then?
DAVID ORCHARD: You can take that however you want -- perhaps a topic for