David Orchard’s Fight

The big political news in Canada this week is the legal challenge of David Orchard to the proposed merger between the far right Alliance and Canada’s oldest political party, the Progressive Conservative Party (PC). This merger would create “The Conservative Party”. David Orchard’s last leadership bid for the PCs reminded me that the “progressive” in PC has a long history and is distinctly Canadian. Reading Mr. Orchard’s speech at the PC leadership convention, one could be forgiven for thinking he was giving his speech to the NDP. It turns out that many of us have forgotten our Canadian Sec V history lessons. I had forgotten all about the “Red Torys” – Mulroney made sure of that and it brought the party to ruin. The fact is, Canadian conservatives have a long history of standing for causes that are definitely progressive, and usually associated with social democrats. He points out that the party has only been successful when it embraced progressive causes (the party under Diefenbaker brough national medicare, universal suffrage, and full civil rights for aboriginals) and nation building (the Railroad, CBC, and Canadian Wheat Board).

Interesting. It seems these Red Tories were forced underground during the 1980s, with “progressive” all but purged from the PC name. With the party on the brink of death from the early 90s, they re-emerged, many of them as David Orchard supporters, and it’s no wonder. He’s the epitome of the Red Tory. Just go to his site and browse through his articles – he writes eloquently and is a strong dissenting voice. I hope he wins the legal challenge, because we don’t need “The Conservative Party”. Things are “right” enough as it is. We need people who will forcefully argue against the radical economic liberalism (yes, that’s right, liberalism) of NAFTA and the WTO, and who will defend the institutions and social policies that make this country great.

I think David Orchard is fresh political voice, and I think the “progressive” in PC should make a come back. It’s a distinctly Canadian institution. In fact, the whole notion of a “progressive conservative” or “Red Tory” is. Just go to google.

I’ll probably never vote for or join the PC Party, but more voices like David Orchard’s make it more likely that I will. If David Orchard loses his fight to keep the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada alive, it will be bad for democracy in this country, and we’ll have lost an important part of our history. Now more than ever, we need to fight Paul Martin’s Liberals. Losing the “Red Torys” of the PCs will not help.

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