David Orchard
The 1998 PC Leadership Race
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Globe and Mail, September 15, 1998

Orchard could "steal" leadership, senior Tories fear
Voting system leaves party "vulnerable to takeover" by free-trade foe

by Graham Fraser and Brian Laghi

Ottawa -- Senior Conservatives are worried that their party's new leadership-selection process leaves it open to a takeover by candidate David Orchard and his passionate antifree-trade campaign.

Mr. Orchard, 47, is a Saskatchewan organic farmer and Canadian nationalist who has been active for the past 10 years in the campaign against free trade.

Already, the Orchard campaign has signed up 7,000 new Progressive Conservatives for a party that had only 23,000 members at the end of July.

The new system gives every party member a vote -- but each of the 301 constituencies will have equal weight regardless of how many votes were cast in that riding.

"There is considerable concern in the party that David Orchard may be able to steal this thing," said Heather MacIvor, a political scientist at the University of Windsor, who wrote a thesis on party leadership selection in Canada and is writing a book on the Tories.

Senator Lowell Murray agreed that the new system leaves the party defenceless.

"The party is very vulnerable to takeover," he said in an interview. "I don't think people realize how vulnerable it is."

He pointed out that many people who have traditionally voted Tory and contributed to the party are unaware they have to renew memberships before Sept. 29 to vote.

Prof. MacIvor said that Mr. Orchard could do very well by mobilizing support in areas where the Tories are weak, such as Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, where it would not take very many votes to win a large amount of support in the new system. Mr. Orchard, as a one-issue candidate with narrow but deep support, may be more able to get his supporters to the polls than those with broader but less committed backing.

Even if former prime minister Joe Clark and Tory strategist Hugh Segal won more votes in areas where the party is strong, this would not necessarily amount to more support.

"I'm quite frightened he could win this thing," she said. "I'm not saying it's a likelihood, but it can't be ruled out."

So far, according to Mr. Orchard's campaign manager, Marjaleena Repo, his campaign has signed up 7,000 new members -- which represents almost a third of the number on the party list of 23,000 members the campaign received when Mr. Orchard submitted his deposit.

She agreed that this has made Tories uneasy. "I could see it last night [at the all-candidates debate in Burnaby B.C.]," she said in an interview. "They are very, very nervous -- which is contradictory to the claim that they want to bring in new ideas and new people."

Aides for other campaigns have suggested that Mr. Orchard is getting support from organized labour, but Ms. Repo dismissed this as "spin," and a political attempt to paint Mr. Orchard as a left-winger.

"If we're getting labour support, it's coming without the leadership," she said. "This is basically a citizens movement. If anything, there's lack of support from the labour leadership. David Orchard has taken a much stronger stand against free trade than Bob White," head of the Canadian Labour Congress.

She described Mr. Orchard as "a genuine Red Tory."

The one known labour figure who has endorsed Mr. Orchard, she said, is Diana Kilmury, a vice-president of the Teamsters, who introduced Mr. Orchard recently at a meeting in Vancouver.

In addition, Frank de Jong, president of the Green Party of Ontario, and Stuart Parker, president of the Green Party of British Columbia, have both endorsed Mr. Orchard.

A senior organizer for Joe Clark conceded that the party may have created a headache for itself by establishing a selection method that can allow special interests to wield significant impact.

"The process is such that the Conservatives have set themselves to have the leadership heavily influenced by one large group," said the organizer, who asked that his name not be published.

He also said that some party members are concerned that Mr. Orchard is not a true Conservative, and that his decision to join the race is little more than an effort to attract publicity for his views.

"There's definitely talk about who Mr. Orchard is selling memberships to," said the organizer. "It's clear that he's not a P.C."

Another senior Alberta Tory said he doesn't mind that Mr. Orchard is in the race, nor that he may be bringing in members who are more traditionally on the left wing of the political spectrum.

Mitch Panciuk, a former Edmonton candidate and also a Clark supporter, said Mr. Orchard may give the party an opportunity to welcome new views. The party was damaged in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the departure of many Tories for the Reform Party, and this may be an opportunity to widen the party's ideology

"When those people left, they took away their points of view, and we're poorer for it."

Former PC cabinet minister Harvie Andre, who is also volunteering for Mr. Clark, said he is concerned that Mr. Orchard is taking focus away from the significant issues, but didn't think Mr. Orchard would have a significant influence on the campaign.

He compared Mr. Orchard's entry into the race to marginal election candidates whose presence in a campaign can sometimes subvert the process.

"To some degree, that is what's happening here," Mr. Andre said. "Clearly, Mr. Orchard is not a PC. There's some doubt whether he's even NDP."

Mr. Andre added, however, that Mr. Orchard's candidacy is the price to party must pay for an open process.

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