|By David Orchard|
Good morning. I'm here today to put forward my name as a candidate in the Progressive Conservative Party leadership race. This afternoon I will be in Montreal to launch my campaign in the province of Quebec. We will open our campaign office in Montreal at 3434 C„te-des-Neiges.
I'm in this race because I'm concerned about the direction of our country, and its future as a sovereign nation. We have a wonderful country. It is one which, in my view, must be conserved.
My vision of conservatism has a strong emphasis on the word "conserve." In that, I base myself on the father of modern conservatism, Benjamin Disraeli. Over a century ago, Disraeli set out his guiding principles for Toryism quite simply: first, to elevate the condition of the people and second, to maintain the institutions of the country.
Both of these directives are particularly relevant in our country today, as the standard of living of Canadians has been falling steadily over the past dozen years. At the same time, the Liberals are dismantling the institutions which were built to serve Canadians over the decades -- from cuts to a world-class health system, to the diminishment of our military, to the dismantling of a once-cutting-edge agricultural research capacity, to mention just a few.
Across the west, where I come from, a whole way of life is disappearing as railroad tracks are being ripped up, grain elevators are torn down and entire communities are disappearing.
Disraeli's most famous quote was, "Power has only one duty: to secure the social welfare of the people." I believe, with Disraeli, that exercising power in this manner, for the general good, is the only way of creating a stable, self-sustaining society in the long run. And this is my goal for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Here in Canada, it was John A. Macdonald and George Etienne Cartier who created the Conservative party; and then, in the face of a powerful annexation movement from south of the border, they created a nation. They flung a railway across the new country to hold it together.
Accepted opinion said it couldn't be done. How could a small country of 4 million build the world's longest railway? The Liberals called the idea of an all-Canadian transcontinental railway an example of "the criminal absurdity of nationalism."
But Cartier, Macdonald and the Conservative Party persevered and achieved their goal. They had a vision of Canada as a great nation, never as a satellite power.
Who in our national government has that vision for Canada today?
The Liberals came to power in 1993, promising to reassert and defend Canada's independence. Campaigning against the FTA, NAFTA, and the GST, they have since reversed themselves on all three, and now praise the very things they fought against. They are advocating deeper and deeper integration into our powerful neighbour, talking about removing the border altogether in economic and even military terms. The next step, we are informed, may be for Canada to adopt the U.S. dollar as the common currency for the North American free trade zone.
For Canada to give up its currency would mean the end of our monetary and fiscal independence. This is not what I want for the future of Canada.
Some people have argued that I am not a real Conservative. That brings to mind the accusation hurled against the great prairie Conservative leader, John Diefenbaker. When Diefenbaker won the reins of the Conservative Party, some powerful individuals in Canada accused him of "not being a real conservative." They called him a "prairie Bolshevik." They said he was "too left-wing" to lead the Progressive Conservative Party.
Here is what Mr. Diefenbaker said in reply: "To those who label me as some kind of party maverick and have claimed that I have been untrue to the great principles of the Conservative party, I can only reply that they have forgotten the traditions of Disraeli and Shaftesbury in England, and Macdonald in Canada."
These are my sentiments as well.
I want, first and foremost, to conserve our environment -- to guarantee clean air and safe food and drinking water for all Canadians. This is another principle of my Conservatism. This principle led 27 years ago to my brothers and I converting our Saskatchewan farm to an organic operation. All the grains on my farm are grown without harmful pesticides, herbicides or chemicals.
The population of the planet has doubled in the last 50 years. At the same time, we are consuming on an individual basis much more of the world's resources. This situation is not sustainable. This is one of the reasons I am a supporter of the Kyoto Accord.
I also want to conserve our economy.
I have been accused of being against trade, against the very idea of free trade. This charge reminds me of the story of Mahatma Gandhi visiting England where he was asked what he thought of western civilization. His reply was that he thought it would be a good idea.
Likewise, I think free trade would be a good idea, if we actually had it. I would be in favour of free trade -- free trade which preserves Canada's power and independence. However, there are clauses in the Canada U.S. trade agreements that, in my view, are not related to free trade and which are jeopardizing our sovereignty, our prosperity and our future well being.
I have asked my party to consider a review of the impact of these agreements on our nation.
From the founding of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, until 1988, Canada traded with the U.S. and the rest of the world on a multilateral basis, and very successfully. By the 1980s, our trade with the U.S. was largely free -- 80 per cent of our industrial exports entered the U.S. duty free, and the tariff was low and declining on most of the rest.
Then, in 1988, we dramatically changed our direction. In signing the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, we removed the rules governing our export of goods to the U.S., from the rule of international trade law under GATT, and placed ourselves under American trade law, which the U.S. is free to change unilaterally as it sees fit.
The results, in my view, have not been positive. Our trade with the U.S. today is less free than it was before we signed the so-called free trade agreements, and our standard of living has declined ever since.
Let's look at lumber -- one of our major exports.
From 1947 to the late 1980s, when we traded under the GATT multilateral framework, the U.S. was never able to level a countervailing duty or tariff against our lumber exports. Today, we have a 27 per cent tariff on our softwood exports, and tens of millions of dollars has been expended in legal fees to Washington lawyers by Canada's taxpayers and our timber industry.
Our southern neighbours now want to dictate how our forest industry should be run by dismantling our system of publicly owned forests and turning our crown lands over to private ownership -- which may well mean foreign ownership.
Let's examine another major Canadian export: agriculture products.
From 1947 to 1988 the U.S. never attempted, in the GATT, to challenge the existence of our major grain exporter, the Canadian Wheat Board. Yet since placing ourselves under the free trade agreement, the Americans have, not once, nor twice, but 10 times, launched challenges against the Canadian Wheat Board; and we have seen quotas placed on our exports of grain to the U.S., while the U.S. continues to heavily subsidize its own grain exports.
The latest U.S. action against the Canadian Wheat Board alone will cost prairie farmers from 7 to 8 million dollars to defend.
Even more troubling in my view, we conceded under chapter 11 of NAFTA, for the first time in history, the right of private American companies to sue the Canadian government directly for any law or regulation in Canada which, in their opinion, causes them "loss or harm" and which they feel contravenes the terms of NAFTA.
More than a dozen of these NAFTA lawsuits have been mounted against Canada.
In a move that adversely affects the health of Canadians, we reversed our ban on the toxic gasoline additive MMT, under the pressure of a chapter 11 lawsuit; and we paid out some 20 million of taxpayers' dollars in compensation to the company that sued Canada. Even though this additive is banned in California and not allowed in Europe, it is once again coming out of the exhaust pipes of Canadian cars.
An American company is now suing to dismantle the courier side of our postal service.
A California company is suing Canada for $10.5 billion to overturn British Columbia's ban on the bulk export of water.
In terms of energy, we have agreed to never charge the Americans more for any energy good than we charge Canadians; and even if we face a shortage of any energy good in Canada, we will continue to send the same proportion of that good south as we did before the shortage, even if we don't have enough for Canada's own needs.
Under the national treatment sections of the FTA and NAFTA, we agreed to never restrict American investment in Canada. Since the FTA was passed, more than 13,000 Canadian companies have been taken over, mostly by American corporations -- everything from our giant forest, grain and energy companies to the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques.
There are now fewer than a dozen major, widely held Canadian companies left listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Soon we are going to turn around and say what have we got left?
To me these kinds of provisions have nothing to do with free trade. They amount to unacceptable infringements on our sovereignty.
Not only did we not achieve free trade, we have ended up curtailing our freedom to such an extent that every government in Canada now crafts any proposed legislation to make sure it won't become the target of a NAFTA lawsuit.
This is no way for Canada to govern itself. We can trade freely and productively around the world and keep our ability to pass laws in our own interest at the same time.
I am all in favour of freer trade, operating through the multilateral forum of the World Trade Organization, but not bilaterally, where we give up our leverage as a nation and are completely exposed to U.S. power.
There are problems in the WTO, but these can be solved by Canada taking a more active and independent approach in defense of our self interest.
But there is more to my conservatism than conserving. The founders of the Conservative Party had a vision of Canada as a great and independent country that would stand on its own feet, trade profitably around the globe, and take a proud position on the world stage.
That is my position as well.
I believe that we should move away from the export of raw materials to a more value added economy. We have innovative companies in Canada, capable of producing a virtually pollution-free automobile, for example. We are a trading nation with the longest coastline in the world, yet our shipyards stand underutilized. We should and could have a vibrant Canadian ship-building industry. I am a western farmer. Yet I can no longer buy a major piece of Canadian farm machinery.
We have all the resources and skills necessary to build these industries, but we are lacking political will and national policies to make them possible.
Edmond Burke's classic definition of conservatism was "a disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve."
I propose we improve the functioning of our electoral system, including reforms to how we finance our political parties. Today political parties must seek corporate and union donations in order to function. It seems to me only individual voters should finance our political parties if we are to avoid a distortion of democracy.
Some 75 countries around the world use a system of proportional representation to give a more accurate reflection of voters' wishes in their parliaments. I believe Canada must look seriously at the declining voter turnout and increased disengagement of the population from the political process. A more representative method of electing our parliamentarians would be an important first step.
In my view, we must rebuild the Canadian military. The ongoing dismantling of our military capacity is an absolute disgrace.
The military is the key tool any nation uses to defend and maintain its sovereignty. We can no longer even rescue our people lost at sea or patrol our borders in an effective way.
At the same time the Liberal government is taking steps to merge what is left of our military under US command.
My position is that our military must be rebuilt and maintained under Canadian command. Its focus should be the maintenance of our territorial integrity, and it should not be used to launch attacks on smaller countries across the globe.
The Canadian military must be used to protect our country and to keep the peace.
I am strongly opposed, for example, to an attack on Iraq. Such an attack would be a blatant violation of international law. Canada must, at all times, take a position in defense of international law.
I do not wish to see Canada lose its independence in the world, economically, culturally, or militarily. Under my leadership our party will take concrete steps to both protect our environment and enhance the prosperity and standard of living for all Canadians.
The Progressive Conservative Party has a method of selecting its leader in which everyone who takes a $10 membership can vote for the leader. If you are aged 14 to 25, it only costs $5. It is not necessary to be a citizen, if you are a landed immigrant, you can join the party and vote for the leader.
It doesn't matter if you have voted for another party in the past or if you have never voted at all, you are welcome in my campaign. It makes no difference if you are 14 years old or 94, if you are a new Canadian or one whose roots have been here for generations, you are welcome in my campaign. If you are concerned about the direction of our country, I urge you to bring your ideas into the political process.
To join is simple. Just call me at 1- 877 WE STAND, as in "we stand on guard for thee" (1-877-937-8263). Or visit my web site at www.davidorchard.com.
Do let your family, your friends, and any networks that you have, know that there is something simple and concrete they can do to improve the situation of our country. I believe we need a credible opposition to the existing government. With your participation the Progressive Conservative party can once again be that viable national alternative.
In order to once again become the choice of Canadian voters, I believe the Progressive Conservative Party must have a Big Idea. I believe the defense of the sovereignty of our nation is the Big Idea which can bring the party back into touch with the majority of voters and protect our nation and its future.
For over a hundred years, it was the Conservative Party which stood for Canada's sovereignty against the liberal idea of merging our country with our southern neighbour. I advocate the Conservative Party reconnecting with those deep and honourable roots.They can be the key to our victory and to Canada's survival.
I ask all Canadians for your help to make these ideas a reality for our nation. Thank you. I will be pleased to answer your questions.