The Vancouver Sun, April 19, 2003
Maverick has Tories all bent out of shape
by Barbara Yaffe
Progressive Conservatives have a long tradition of backstabbing
one another and are proudly continuing the practice in advance of
choosing a new leader.
David Orchard, one of seven leadership candidates, has traditional
Tories breaking out in hives because he's showing unexpectedly strong
support in the run-up to voting day, June 1.
By way of vigorous membership recruitment and novel policy positions,
Mr. Orchard is repeating his 1998 performance in the contest to
beat Joe Clark. Much of his support has derived from British Columbia.
The renegade Conservative forced a second round of voting and ultimately
lost to Mr. Clark. He later failed to win a seat as a Tory in the
Back then, Mr. Clark labelled the soft-spoken organic farmer from
Saskatchewan "a tourist in the party." That's because
Mr. Orchard opposes free trade -- a Conservative initiative. He
also favours left-leaning policies more associated with New Democrats.
For example, he's a strong environmentalist, a pacifist and a Canadian
nationalist suspicious of U.S. encroachment.
Most Canadians might think Conservatives would be fretting about
their ultimate survival in the war of attrition with the Canadian
Or about the fact most of the leadership wannabes lack political
experience or fluent French.
But no. The party's biggest problem, it would seem, is Mr. Orchard.
A Web site dealing with the leadership issue (www.torydraft.com)
has even coined the term "Anti-Orchardism." Its discussion
boards are filled both with pro- and anti-Orchardism.
One sniping entry on the Web site says Orchard supporters would
have to be excluded from a Conservative party event "due to
a dress code requiring tie, dress slacks and any type of footwear."
For all the backbiting, Mr. Orchard is running second, behind Nova
Scotia MP Peter MacKay, who has 42 per cent of declared delegate
The fear is, if voting at the Toronto convention goes to a second
round, non-MacKay supporters might rally to Mr. Orchard, favoured
by 26 per cent of delegates. He offers a clear alternative to all
Indeed, some believe Mr. Orchard is a godsend, that he could take
the party back to its centrist "red Tory" roots while
showing the door to neo-con blues who really belong with the Alliance.
Conservative veteran John Crosbie says flatly that, if Mr. Orchard
becomes leader, the PC party is dead.
The retired politician, a MacKay backer, declared recently: "Mr.
Orchard is not a Conservative."
If he wins, "support for the party would disappear and that
would be the end of us. That would be a disaster."
Mr. Crosbie isn't alone in that opinion. As of last week a letter
began circulating within the party taking direct aim at the black-sheep
It says Mr. Orchard's "influence in the party over the past
four years has been very damaging."
And should he win the top job, the result would be "unprogressive,
economically devastating, reclusive and [would] turn back the clock
on the accomplishments of our party."
The letter urges party members to pledge that: "No deal, concession
or compromise be made with David Orchard in order to either secure
his support or guarantee his victory at the convention."
And that "every effort be made by the opposing leadership
camps to NOT hand Mr. Orchard a victory, or even allow him any influence
in the party should his leadership bid fail."
It's not known how many party members have signed the pledge. But
calls to me suggest the written entreaty is making the rounds.
Mr. Orchard may pose a challenge to his party's future. But, it
must be said, to date he has injected the only bit of humour and
interest in what otherwise has been a remarkably boring leadership