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The Globe and Mail, July 5, 2002

Orchard to back Clark at Tory convention

By Brian Laghi, Ottawa

David Orchard, the free-trade critic and former federal Tory leadership candidate, privately told Joe Clark that he'll support him next month when the party rules on Mr. Clark's performance.

Mr. Orchard made the commitment at a meeting two weeks ago. Some Tories have expressed concern that Mr. Orchard still wants the job he lost to Mr. Clark in 1998.

From 200 to 300 of Mr. Orchard's supporters plan to attend the party's convention in Edmonton, leaving some Conservatives wondering whether Mr. Orchard planned to use his troops to vote against Mr. Clark to try to force a leadership convention.

In an interview, Mr. Orchard confirmed that he called Mr. Clark two weeks ago to set up a meeting. where he assured the leader of his backing.

"Mr. Clark is providing stable, proven leadership," Mr. Orchard said. "It's exactly what the party needs. I don't think this is the time to be forcing the party through a divisive leadership review, and so I'll be voting accordingly."

Mr. Orchard would not say how his supporters would vote. He confirmed that there would be 200 to 300 of them at the convention, or 15 to 20 per cent of the 1,250 delegates the Tories expect.

Many members of the Tory rank and file have said that Mr. Orchard is not a true progressive conservative because of his criticism of free trade, a deal put together by former prime minister Brian Mulroney. Some are distrustful of his motives and have expressed concern that he wants to take over the party.

Mr. Orchard's troops intend to flex their muscles at the convention by opposing any movement to cooperate with the Canadian Alliance in the next election. The party also plans to discuss the issue of Canadian sovereignty, a key policy matter for Mr. Orchard.

"I think most Canadians want to see our country become [stronger] on the world stage, rather than become weaker in terms of our own independent voice," he said.

Rick Perkins, a senior Tory who wants the rift healed within the small-c conservative movement, said Mr. orchard probably opposes Tory co-operation within the Alliance because it would dilute Mr. Orchard's influence within his party.

Mr. Perkins also argued that Mr. Orchard's delegates could easily tip the scales in favour of those who want to maintain a party policy requiring the Tories to run candidates in all federal ridings, thereby crushing any possibility of Alliance-Tory candidates in selected constituencies.

"David Orchard is a party member, and the party establishment has accepted him," Mr. Perkins said.

"Do I agree with anything he says? No."

Marjaleena Repo, an Orchard supporter and president of a PC riding association in Saskatchewan said that Orchard supporters and many other party members don't want the Tories to join with the Alliance because it would position the Tory party closer to the United States. The Liberals have become too cozy with that country, she said, and Canada needs a party that will stand up for this country.

"It would be horrible," Ms. Repo said of a merger. "We would have two continentalist parties left in this country."

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