Can a red Tory end up black and blue?
By Sydney White

Like Auntie Mame, I have lived.

When David Orchard was in his first run for the leadership, I experienced the razor's edge at Tory discussion groups where Orchardites locked horns with Harrisites. At the Albany Club Debate, I risked my new glasses by remarking that Milton Friedman's economics were inferior to Milton Berle's. And at Peter Van Loan's barbecue, the disgruntled insisted that adding Reformers was the only answer. The new disgruntled are still pressing for the same answer with a different name.

In the beginning, many of us cringed at the thought of returning to a Mulroney-designed Conservative party. But for the good of our country, we cast our lot with David Orchard. Suddenly we were passengers on the Wabash Cannonball. Somehow we had to work our way up to the engine cab and try to modify speed and direction before the train hurtled down that last mountain curve into the Valley of Blue.

This year's Conservative Party leadership was probably the most riveting political event since the last leadership convention. After the smoke cleared, David Orchard had indeed initiated the long trek from the Valley.

How firm Peter MacKay will stand on his agreement with Orchard is a moot point, but at least a balance between red and blue is now possible. A review of NAFTA is long overdue by any party's standards.

I caught MacKay in a quiet moment after the convention and thanked him for his agreement to review free trade, reminding him that loyal Red Tories had been calling it "SHAFTA" for years.

Other points agreed on by Orchard and MacKay were: to promote environmental issues; not to merge with the Alliance or run joint candidates; and to have a proportionate amount of Orchard people in Head Office. As far as the accusation that David Scrymgeour was dropped on Orchard's orders, it is routine for the national director to offer his resignation when a new leader is put in place, though not a given that it will be accepted.

Despite the logic of the agreement, a whirlwind of peevish predictions surrounded both MacKay and Orchard. Brison, when asked about attracting "star" candidates to the party, replied: "Well, there's always the potential of Maude Barlow or Mel Hurtig or David Suzuki, or Paul Hellyer for that matter."

Sarcasm aside, he's got a point. Along with Jack Layton, virtually unanimously elected, wouldn't it be wonderful to have leadership candidates of other parties like those named by Brison? Though the Orchard contingent created a breath of fresh air and a healthy balance in the party, it seemed that some party members, and candidates as well, couldn't see the forest for the Orchard.

Stephen Harper of the Alliance, never at a loss for words or a photo-op, agreed with Brison some days later, when he asked the television audience "Do they [the Conservatives] really want to work with that gang of socialists, or with us?" (His question must have been rhetorical or else he missed the Convention.) He added, "Both parties have to join in the interest of the public." Then he went on to blatantly, and some say, feverishly, apply the pressure hose to "unite the right".

According to the Conservative's strategist, however, this sudden move is rather strange because in the past, Harper has not been in favour of uniting with the Conservatives at all. Stephen's anxiety is noticeable as he is now using the fear card to forcefully create what he calls "a single party with a single leader" because, he declares, "We have a big enemy in the Liberal Party." Some would debate Stephen on the size of the enemy, but as we have learned from recent history, there is no debating the fact that "a single party with a single leader" has not always been in the public interest.

Interestingly, Harper's sudden change of direction came shortly after his invitation and attendance at the Bilderberg Conference recently in Versaille. As we remember from the careers of Bill Clinton and Mike Harris, before they were (s)elected to positions of enormous responsibility, they too were invited to attend these secluded gatherings. Has Stephen Harper, known as the "right of the right", been favoured with some future responsibility "in the interest of the public"? We wonder what it might be?

On the face of it, and knowing the results from other Bilderberg adoptions, this new and unreported liason seems rather murky. We can be happy that Conservatives, both small and big C, are now distanced from an "alliance" (pun intended) that may not be in our interest or to our credit.

On the Michael Coren show shortly after the convention, many callers (some of whom announced that they were "right wing" in the party) stated generally, that they were dismayed by Peter Van Loan's remarks. Many said that David spoke "for the poor in the party". Coren also disagreed with Van Loan that David was "a cult leader". Other party members called in to state that David was not for "scrapping" free trade as some claimed, but simply wanted it to be "fair"
trade. Against my well-earned cynicism, I still hope that MacKay's review of NAFTA will not just corroborate the status quo, but will present a proper national forum and debate on how free trade is actually working. Thank you David, for opening the door to this opportunity for Canada.

Sydney White is a member of the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform.