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National Post, August 3, 2002

Federal Tory leadership

Activist poised to win leadership, MP warns
Hazards of ousting Clark

by Bill Curry

OTTAWA -- Tories eager to topple Joe Clark at this month's leadership review in Edmonton should be careful what they wish for, warns Scott Brison, a Tory MP and Clark supporter, who says anti-globalization advocate David Orchard could end up taking over the party if the leader is ousted.

Mr. Brison has been telling party members that with the party's total membership down to 10,000 people, Mr. Orchard could use the support he has among left-leaning interest groups, as well as his own political organization, to win a leadership convention.

"In the last leadership race, David Orchard came in second and shocked the bejesus out of a lot of people in our party. Right now, David Orchard has a national organization of latent members. These are people who aren't members right now, but at the drop of a hat, would become members," he said, citing supporters of the Council of Canadians and the Sierra Club as examples. Spokespersons for both groups say they don't support political parties, but John Bennett of the Sierra Club did say Mr. Orchard's policies mesh with those of his organization.

"When he ran for the leadership a few years back, he did support a number of issues that we would have been in agreement with," he said. "We have lots of members and every member is an individual."

Some Tory insiders say Mr. Brison's comments are a desperate attempt by the pro-Clark team to dissuade delegates from voting against the leader, but Mr. Brison said the theory is his own.

"Do the math and look at what happened last time," he said. "We've got to give our collective heads a shake and realize that this is not a far-fetched notion at all and it's certainly not a scare tactic. It's a combination of the disciplines of arithmetic and political organization and David Orchard has a well-financed network of activists, many of whom are single-issue... [and] can be mobilized very, very quickly. He demonstrated his ability to do that last time. He would have an even easier time to do it now," he said.

Mr. Orchard has a campaign-style Web site titled "David Orchard Campaign for Canada" that criticizes the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement. he is also an organic farmer who promotes environmental issues and opposes genetically modified foods.

"He and I are on polar opposites on some pretty fundamental issues involving economic policy," Mr. Brison said.

But Mr. Orchard said he's not an extremist.

"I think only a moderate, mainstream party will each the hearts and minds of Canadians," he said, adding that he's supporting Mr. Clark because "I don't see a great appetite in the mainstream of the party to push people out."

As for whether he will run for the leadership again when Mr. Clark is gone, he said: "That's purely a hypothetical question."

Tories are asking themselves why Mr. Orchard has decided to support Mr. Clark during the leadership review vote at the Tory convention in Edmonton, Aug. 22-25.

Ariane Eckardt, the Tory riding president for Burnaby-Douglas, B.C., said she suspects Mr. Orchard is hoping the party will continue to weaken under Mr. Clark and will be easier to take over at a later date. "If Mr. Orchard wants to take over the PC Party, surely the time is now," she said. Ms. Eckardt disagrees with Mr. Orchard's policies, and has been getting delegates elected to the convention to sign a letter asking Mr. Clark to resign before Aug. 22.

Ms. Eckardt says a group of like minded organizers plans to present the letter and signatures to the leader this week. Those involved with the letter say the vote will be close, but Mr. Clark will still likely win because of support from Mr. Orchard's organization, who they estimate will make up almost a quarter of the 1,300 delegates.

"Without Orchard, Clark's toast," said another Tory involved with the letter.

Eric Ferguson, the president of the Tory riding association of Fredericton, N.B. who was an MP during Mr. Clark's short-lived government from 1979 to 1980, predicted 75% of delegates from his province will be voting against Mr. Clark. He also dismissed Mr. Brison's warnings about Mr. Orchard, pointing out that when the leadership of the New Brunswick Tory party opened up a few years ago, many strong candidates came out of the woodwork.

"We'd never heard tell of Bernard Lord before then," he said.

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