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Globe and Mail, March 14, 2003

MacKay campaign launches stop-Orchard drive

by Brian Laghi and Campbell Clark

Ottawa - Tory MP Peter MacKay's leadership campaign has issued a call to arms to hundreds of senior Progressive Conservatives to stop left-leaning candidate David Orchard from winning the party's top job. A memo, sent by Senator Consiglio Di Nino, Mr. MacKay's campaign co-chairman, suggests that the campaigner against free trade is not a Tory's Tory. It warns Conservatives they could suffer the shock of seeing Mr. Orchard lead the party if they do not band together behind Mr. MacKay.

But organizers for other candidates said the missive is an alarmist tactic aimed at scaring Tories into abandoning their preferred contenders.

The MacKay campaign memo, which sources say was sent to about 1,000 individuals who have automatic-delegate status to the May 29-June 1 leadership convention, says an article in The Globe and Mail characterizing Mr. Orchard as a strong contender has prompted many long-time party members to contact the campaign.

"A common thread running through all these calls has been a genuine surprise and concern about Mr. Orchard's apparent success in electing delegates. Some have questioned his motives and commitment to our party. Others have raised similar questions about his supporters.

"They say that it is obvious that this race is turning into a two-way fight and they see Peter MacKay as being the only candidate to ensure that David Orchard does not take over the leadership of the party."

As of Wednesday night, with delegate-selection in the early stages, Mr. MacKay had won the support of 108 delegates, with Mr. Orchard, a Saskatchewan farmer, second at 78. Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison is in third with 38 delegates, followed by Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice with 14, Quebec MP André Bachand with three and one undecided, sources said.

The next week will probably see Mr. Orchard creep closer to the top spot as a number of delegate-selection meetings are held in the West. One meeting, in the Alberta riding of Wetaskiwin, is expected to elect all 10 delegates for Mr. Orchard because he is the only candidate who has organized a slate.

"I think everybody should know what's going on," John Laschinger, Mr. MacKay's other campaign co-chairman, said Thursday. "I think the Conservative Party wants someone who is centre, centre-right. They don't want someone who is left."

But Michael Fortier, campaign co-chairman for Mr. Brison, who is running third, said Mr. MacKay's campaign is overstating concerns that Mr. Orchard will win. "I think they're being far too alarmist, and basically trying to get people to abandon their candidate and go to Peter right away," he said.

Even if Mr. Orchard were to win the lion's share of elected delegates, ultimate victory will still be a challenge. First, the automatic delegates — MPs, senators, past election candidates and riding presidents — tend to be members of the Tory establishment and less likely to vote for him. Second, Mr. Orchard would likely have difficulty attracting backing of other contenders, whose support he would probably need as they drop from the ballot if there are several rounds of leadership voting. To win the convention, a candidate will need the support of the majority of delegates, a result that will be difficult for anyone to achieve, given the large number of candidates.

In his memo, Mr. Di Nino also states the MacKay camp is not surprised by the strong showing of Mr. Orchard, who finished second to current leader Joe Clark in the 1998 race, because he has been working hard to organize for years.

"Those results are reminding us of an important axiom about the political process: The decisions get made by those who show up," the Senator said.

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