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The Leader-Post (Regina) and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix August 07, 2002

Activist may run for leadership

by James Parker  

Anti-free trade activist David Orchard may take a second run at the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, a turn of events which has some senior party members angry.

Orchard, a Borden-area organic farmer who finished a distant second to Joe Clark in the 1998 Tory leadership race, said Tuesday he will seriously consider jumping into a leadership contest when Clark steps down.

The 52-year-old opponent of globalization and neo- conservatism -- described by Clark as a tourist in the party during the one-member, one-vote, 1998 campaign -- said the Conservatives are the only viable alternative to the governing Liberals.

Among other possible candidates are Nova Scotia MP Peter McKay, Toronto lawyer John Tory and Hugh Segal, a one-time aide to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who dropped out of the 1998 race after the first ballot.

Orchard made his comments after Clark requested the party set a date next year for a leadership race to be held in 2003. Clark will stay on as leader until a date is set and will remain on the job if the Liberals call an early election.

Clark's decision to quit means he won't face a leadership review at the party's national convention at the end of the month in Edmonton.

A number of prominent Tories have suggested Clark retire from politics, although New Brunswick MP Greg Thompson is the lone member of the Conservative party caucus to call for his resignation.

Some Clark loyalists have suggested the party would open the door to an Orchard takeover if the Tory leader was pushed out prematurely.

Lynne Agnew, the party's outgoing vice-president for Saskatchewan, said Orchard and his supporters have been preparing for a leadership bid by attempting to take control of riding associations in the province.

She said the Orchard camp already dominates riding association executives in Blackstrap and Wanuskewin.

Marjaleena Repo, a close Orchard associate, is running to replace Agnew as provincial vice-president.

"I don't see there is anything wrong or underhanded or evil in this (taking control of riding associations)," said Agnew, who believes a candidate from Central Canada should take the helm of the Tories.

"It's just that I don't believe they belong in our party because of their political philosophy. I don't think (federal NDP leader) Alexa McDonough belongs in our party. Their political philosophy doesn't mesh with the political philosophy of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada."

Agnew said Orchard is clearly attempting to use the Conservative party as a platform to promote his own political views.

Richard Gabruch, a Saskatoon lawyer running against Repo for the provincial vice-presidency, said an Orchard victory would destroy the party.

Orchard, who has been working to improve his French, said he found it remarkable anyone would complain of his activities at the riding association level.

"We've got riding associations across this country where there is very little sign of life at all. The party has repeatedly appealed to have those riding associations rejuvenated."

Orchard rejected the charge he wants to use the party as his own personal vehicle. He said he has proven his loyalty and commitment over the last few years.

"Which of the leadership contenders ran in the 2000 election in a very tough province for the Progressive Conservatives (in Prince Albert)? Who stayed in the party and brought in thousands of new members? Who worked hard to provide loyal support to the leader since 1998?"

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