Not so PC PC

I watched a good portion of the PC convention this Saturday. No, I didn’t grab a bag of all-dressed chips and hunker down in front of CPAC for an all day marathon. But whenever I was near a TV, I’d invariably shout, “We gotta find out how David is doing.”

Yes, I have a bit of a soft spot for Mr. Orchard. I read his book, “The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism,” the summer between Grade 11 and 12. The effects of his prose were tremendous and for the twelve months following, I was a rabid nationalist. I even helped campaign for the National Party (a move Mr. Orchard probably wouldn’t have recommended). I still have a copy of the book, but I can’t read it, just like I can’t listen to the Barenaked Ladies “Gordon” album anymore.

Anyway, I was thrilled that Orchard was making another play in the house that Mulroney built. I knew he couldn’t win. He knew he couldn’t win. His followers probably thought he could. Then, BAM, Orchard is behind Peter “I’m so perfect for this job ’cause I’m boring as toast” MacKay. That move was probably as close to Matrix-level excitement for these kinds of things as you can get. I know I was riveted to the tube. (No comments about the paucity of things to do in Whitby on a Saturday night. That’s my job.) I never saw that deal with MacKay coming, though I should have.

Orchard’s got a good head for politics. Back in 1988, he could see that the three way PC, Liberal, NDP race (call it an either/or/or situation) was bad news for people who actually cared about preventing the free-trade deal, as opposed to those just concerned about gettin’ their guy elected. More Canadians voted against the FTA when they sided the Liberals or the NDP. However, the Conservatives marched back to Ottawa with a majority government, thanks to the vote splitting. During the lead-up to the 1988 election, a then unaffiliated Orchard was proposing that the Liberals and the NDP form a collation on this issue, so that the FTA could effectively be blocked. You see, the unique thing about Orchard is that the issues come first. Hence his move this past Saturday.

Orchard is out to get his concerns addressed. He could have gone out on Saturday, patting his supporters on the back, happy they all came so far, and then sat back at the Tory’s kiddie table for the weird children who have been known to eat worms. By throwing his weight behind MacKay, Orchard’s concerns have a better chance of being addressed.

Almost as exciting as the MacKay-Orchard deal are the reactions to it. There all those Tories pulling their hair and gnashing their teeth ’cause their new leader made a deal with the devil. Martin with the “gun to the head” metaphor and Chrétien’s “hot couple” comment make me giggle. Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert has written the party off.

But hold on there. The jittery Tories seem to be jumping the gun they’ve aimed at their head. Their piety to the PC past makes them appear more the fanatics than Orchard’s devoted. Are the FTA and NAFTA such sacred accomplishments that they are above review? Do these Tories believe that these agreements have brought nothing but milk and honey to Canada? And what if the worst was to come to pass: MacKay, with Orchard pulling those puppet strings sitting in that “gentleman’s agreement,” harshly criticises or opposes [gasp!] free-trade? Would they pull the last remaining hairs from their patchy heads while screaming, “Blasphemy, how dare you desecrate the sacred-heart of Mulroney!” while conveniently ignoring those days (way back) when a Canadian conservative was someone opposed to free-trade. (This was before conservative was equated with neo-con/big-biz ass-lick.) Tories have completely changed their minds in the past, why would it be so wrong now? Look at the Liberals, it didn’t hurt them too much (think free-trade and GST).

As for Hébert’s claim that the Tories now have no chance, I’m not wholly convinced. Because of the MacKay-Orchard phenomenon, Tories are posed to be one of the most interesting if not volatile parties. C’mon, how cool is publicly admitting you’ve got a secret deal? Frankly, my interest is piqued as I’m frustrated with a Liberal government that simply steals neo-conservative ideas, an NDP party that expounds vacuous flakeries and Bloc that doesn’t run any candidates this far west of Hull. I’m tired of Alliance tinged Liberals and I’m curious about this new socialist/conservative love-child.

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