Articles by David Orchard
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Prince Albert Herald, Tuesday, February 28, 2006 (in a severely truncated version) and North Central Internet News (Ensign)

Mr. Harper goes to Ottawa

by David Orchard

Two and a half years ago Stephen Harper headed a regional and fading political party unable to connect with most Canadians because of its unpalatable policies.

Today, Mr. Harper is prime minister of Canada.

Two factors were key in transforming Canada's political landscape. The Progressive Conservative (PC) party's last leadership convention, on June1, 2003, elected Peter MacKay leader on his written promise not to merge the party with Harper's Social Credit-based Canadian Reform-Alliance. MacKay's subsequent betrayal delivered the PC party – including its name, colours and logo – to Mr. Harper. (The new party now even calls itself "Tory" and claims to be the descendant of John A. Macdonald's founding party of Canada.)

For the Reform-Alliance party to get the Conservative name it coveted was a coup. Discarding its essentially meaningless green colour and draping itself in blue, especially in Québec with its potent history of "les bleus" going back to the nation's great co-founder, Georges-Étienne Cartier, allowed the new party to achieve what one Québec observer called "power by confusion."

A second contributing factor was the NDP, which triggered the recent election at the most opportune time for Mr. Harper and then – by accident or design – helped the Conservatives win.

The NDP campaign began with Ed Broadbent declaring that Stephen Harper was no longer so "scary" – and Jack Layton praising the reasonable and responsible attitude of his new coalition partners, the Bloc and the Conservatives, helping to legitimize both – and ended with a broadside from Broadbent, not against the front running Conservatives, but against the NDP's former governing allies, Paul Martin's Liberals.

In the weeks between, Mr. Layton's party directed the majority of its firepower and advertising budget against the "corrupt" Liberals, occasionally tut-tutting the Conservatives for being "wrong on the issues."

Canadians, the NDP told us, had a third option rather than voting for "the Conservatives or corruption." As if the new Conservative party, created in blatant deception and betrayal – including a rigged merger vote – and laden with Brian Mulroney's operators and their scandal ridden past, was somehow less corrupt than the Liberals.

In the end, the split vote between the NDP and the Liberals handed the country's future to the Bloc and Mr. Harper.

"We want to help the government function for a while," the Bloc House Leader recently announced, "to do what needs to be done."

The NDP's role in rehabilitating Mr. Harper and helping him to power is strikingly reminiscent of the party's actions in the 1988 free trade election, when Ed Broadbent turned his guns on John Turner – who was carrying the battle for Canadian sovereignty – thus playing a crucial role in giving the country the Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, the GST and four more years of Brian Mulroney. In 2006, a few thousand votes for the NDP instead of for the Liberals in a couple of dozen ridings gave power to a party the majority of Canadians tried their best to block at the ballot box. Buzz Hargrove has called for an end to the Liberal-NDP vote split in key ridings to better reflect the voters' wishes and end the Conservatives free ride to power.

Also noteworthy was the kid glove press treatment of Mr. Harper, whereby a man with an unfailing adherence to U.S. foreign policy, by his own admission inspired by the U.S. right-wing Conservative movement, was suddenly transformed into a moderate, even progressive, mainstream Canadian politician. The masters of spin around Harper knew that right-wing leaders don't win federal elections in Canada. And voilà, virtually overnight he ceased to be one – and the media appeared to swallow it all. Any attempt to point out Mr. Harper's amply documented past was derisively dismissed as "negative."

It remained for a former U.S. vice-president, Al Gore, to blow the whistle for Canadians. In an explosive interview from Park City, Utah, strikingly underreported in Canada, Mr. Gore said, "The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta. And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra conservative leader in order to win the election... and to protect its interests."

Mr. Gore pointed out that one of the things the oil industry wants is Canada's pullout from Kyoto.

As Brian Mulroney's entourage emerges from the shadows into key cabinet and government positions, as the stunning and deafening silence grows regarding Mr. Mulroney's receipt of large payments of cash from Karl-Heinz Schreiber despite his sworn testimony in court that he had "no dealings whatsoever" with Mr. Schreiber, the country waits for Mr. Harper's next move and for Mr. Layton's explanation of why his party opened the door for the Harper-Bloc alliance.

We wait also for the RCMP investigation into Mr. Gore's allegations of foreign funds going to a Canadian political party, and into Mr. Schreiber's statements which, if true, point to a prima facie case of perjury against Mr. Mulroney. Mr. Harper and his justice minister, Vic Toews, promised to "clean up" Canadian politics and "get tough on crime." Here's the perfect place to start.

David Orchard ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He is the author of The Fight for Canada – Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism, farms at Borden, SK, and can be reached at tel (306) 652-7095, e-mail:,

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