The Toronto Star, Saturday, June 19, 1993
Resisting the cozy U.S. embrace
By Heath Macquarrie
David Orchard, a fourth generation Saskatchewan
farmer, national chairman of Citizens Concerned About
Free Trade, is a lobbyist. But don't let that put you
off. The country is now rife with lobbyists although the
majority of them seem to be touting right-wing points of
His book, The Fight for Canada, is a hard-hitting
denunciation of the Free Trade Agreement and those who
brought its ills upon is.
Orchard presents a readable and exciting
encapsulation of Canada's centuries-old resistance to
the intrusions from its southern neighbor. There is
today a euphoric tendency to regard Canada-U.S.
confrontations as mere skirmishes between blood
brothers. Orchard recalls that there have been bitter
and powerful attacks against our territorial sovereignty
fuelled by the avid bellicosity of U.S. political
In his recapitulation of the earlier economic and
political pressures from the south, the author finds
most of his heroes in the Conservative party. John A.
Macdonald in 1891 and Robert Borden in 1911, saw that
commercial union would be followed by political union.
But in our own time it is from the Progressive
Conservative party that the chief villains spring.
William Randolph Hearst is quoted as dubbing Brian
Mulroney as "the most pro-American prime minister in
Canada's history." Power hungry premiers, who have
weakened the central government, are also culprits; they
"allowed the North-South pull to grow even stronger."
It is Orchard's contention that in selling the FTA to
the Canadian electorate in 1988, the government and its
corporate elite allies misled the public. Instead of
more jobs there came a host of plant closings and the
movement of thousands of workers into the ranks of the
jobless. After four years of free trade the unemployment
rate exceeds 11 per cent.
Being a good pamphleteer, Orchard uses startling
statistics and evaluations. In his denunciation of the
Canadian negotiators he quotes one of their American
counterparts, Clayton Yeutter: "We've signed a stunning
new trade pact with Canada. The Canadians don't
understand what they've signed. In 20 years they will be
sucked into the U.S. economy."
Zealots are not noted for their sense of humor and
there are few light passages in this book. The author
sees worse things ahead. The cozy embrace of the United
States will endanger Canada's cultural values and affect
us in areas not essentially in the realm of trade. He
sees NAFTA as compounding the agonies resulting from FTA.
He says, "Cheap Canadian resources and cheap Mexican
labor, both U.S. controlled, are what the North American
Free Trade deal is all about."
Abrogation is the only way out of the economic and
political morass. This can be accomplished only if the
NDP and Liberals agree that in the next election their
candidates will not oppose each other in seats that are
normally Conservative, Reform or Bloc Quebecois.
The chances of such an electoral accommodation are
nil. As Orchard points out, the Liberals can no longer
hope to ride to power on anti-Mulroney sentiment alone.
But recent events at the PC convention have restored the
hopes of the office-hungry Liberals. The federal NDP, in
a blunder of suicidal proportions, has apparently gone
along with Premier Bob Rae's unpopular economic program
and jettisoned its own much-vaunted platform. With the
PCs cleaving to their rightist stance, the Liberals
doubtless see themselves as the only place for the
disaffected NDP voters to go. This might even be a
fairly reasonable assumption.
The Fight for Canada is a one-sided book. Orchard
brandishes statistics supportive of his views,
suppressing others that might put the free trade
agreement in a favourable light. He gets no marks for
But, still, there are those consistently and
painfully high unemployment figures, plant closings,
food banks and soup kitchens. These, alas, are not
indicators of the new Heaven and a new Earth promised by
the authors of the Free Trade Agreement.
Senator Heath Macquarrie is the author of Red Tory
Blues: A Political Memoir.