David Orchard
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The Gazette, Tuesday, March 25, 2003

A different kind of conservative

It's hard not to like David Orchard. Anyone who can drop into a Gazette editorial-board meeting and quote liberally from Edmund Burke, Benjamin Disraeli and John Diefenbaker while reminiscing about his days at a one-room school in rural Saskatchewan can't be all bad. Indeed, the soft-spoken Prairie wheat farmer is as amiable as a border collie and appears just about as threatening.

But he sure has a lot of his fellow Tories frightened. His campaign to dismantle much of the legacy of the last Progressive Conservative government to rule the country - notably, the North American Free Trade Agreement - seems to be striking a responsive chord. He says he's running second in the current leadership race and selling party memberships at an enviable clip to such disparate and unlikely political bedfellows as Margaret Atwood, Stompin' Tom Connors and former Noranda CEO Adam Zimmerman.

So why does this frighten some Conservatives? Because they believe that an Orchard victory at the May 29 Tory convention in Toronto would render the venerable party of Sir John A. Macdonald utterly irrelevant - perhaps irredeemably so. That being said, however, Orchard is a delight to listen to and a worthy spokesperson for an older, conservative tradition - one that reflects Burke's classic ''disposition to preserve and an ability to improve.'' He's a reminder that there's more to conservativism than just Newt Gingrinch and Stephen Harper.

© Copyright 2003 Montreal Gazette

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