Globe and Mail, March 11, 2003
Orchard a strong second in Tory contest
by Brian Laghi
OTTAWA -- Tory maverick David Orchard has startled his foes in
the race to replace Joe Clark by finding himself within striking
distance of front-runner Peter MacKay.
With the race just under way and 5 per cent of the delegates to
the May convention elected, Tory officials said yesterday that Mr.
Orchard, an activist against free trade and a controversial member
of the party, is running close behind Mr. MacKay.
The race, still in its very early stages, sees Mr. MacKay with
the support of 71 declared delegates and Mr. Orchard with commitments
Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison has 20 delegates; Alberta lawyer Jim
Prentice has two, and Quebec MP André Bachand has one.
The 15 delegate-selection meetings so far have taken place in only
four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
There are almost 290 meetings to come.
Still, Mr. Orchard's early performance confirms the view of those
who say he has an outside chance of winning and making the party
over in his own image. He is a strong opponent of the North American
free-trade agreement with the United States, a deal put together
by the administration of former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Kevin Gallagher, who is Mr. MacKay's Ontario campaign chairman,
urged small-c conservatives to take out memberships.
"David Orchard is out there and organized, and if people want
this party to remain PC, they better buy memberships."
For his part, Mr. Orchard said yesterday the party must change
the road it is on if it wishes to improve upon the historic low
totals of popular vote that it polled in the last election.
"If the party is going to reconnect with the Canadian population,
it has to have something new to offer," he said.
"If we're to continue with the same path, there's a problem.
I offer something new, and I would say I am the only one of the
contenders that offers a new look at some of these issues."
Steven Patten, a political scientist from the University of Alberta
who specializes in conservative politics, said he does not believe
Mr. Orchard can win.
But some party members may be concerned about him because his candidacy
could leave confusion in the eyes of the public about what the party
stands for, Prof. Patten added.