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The Expositor, Brantford, March 29, 2003

Local Tories back Orchard

by Susan Gamble

A new voting system to determine the delegates for the Progressive Conservative's spring leadership convention proved confusing to local Tories this week.

Typically, a slate of delegates is presented to the meeting and basically rubberstamped, said a long-time Tory, but Wednesday's meeting involved a 2½ hour voting process to elect delegates - one of whom can't vote for her chosen candidate.

"It is a weird way to do it," admitted Barbara Herron. "A lot of people were not happy with it."

Herron said vote organizer Fred Minna called Ottawa several times during the process, just to sort out some of the confusing instructions.

While most traditional Tories support Peter MacKay, the vote tipped overwhelmingly toward David Orchard, a Saskatchewan farmer who's relatively unknown.

While Orchard landed six delegates in the new voting system, MacKay and Scott Brison - who visited Brantford recently - each got two.

"More than half of the people who put their names forward as delegates were Peter MacKay supporters," said Herron, "and Scott Brison had only one delegate running."

But when all the Tory members were given a vote, 60 per cent went for Orchard, giving him six delegates.

Two youth delegates had to be fitted in and were given to Peter MacKay.

Since only one delegate supported Brison, the rules called for asking another delegate if they would vote for Brison in at least the first round of voting.

Herron, a longtime Brantford Tory, agreed.

"I was disappointed. We had trouble making the long-term Tories understand the need to come out and vote."

Normally, the local Tories have a tough time getting 10 delegates to agree to go to the conventions because of expenses, said Herron.

This time, she continued, Orchard's organizers had signed up people and got them out to vote at the meeting, which attracted about 40 people.

"The same thing has been happening in other ridings. People have been warning us."

One of the Orchard supporters who snagged a delegate position was Claudia Hudson, who got a call from the politician Friday, asking her to thank everyone for their support and hard work.

The voting system "can be a little confusing" said Hudson, suggesting there may be some more changes made to the system by the next time it's needed.

But, she added, the right man got the most delegates.

"David is the man if the Tories want to go forward. He's the one attracting all the new members and many people are returning to the party because of David."

Not only does the normally staid delegation selection meeting show that the local Tories are alive and well, Hudson said the race is shaping up to have some fun and excitement.

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