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Regina Leader-Post, January 29, 2003

Orchard attracts unlikely support

by Barb Pacholik

A former head of the NDP youth wing in Saskatchewan and current president of the New Green Alliance is joining the federal Tory party after hearing a speech by leadership hopeful David Orchard. Victor Lau not only paid his $10 to take out a membership in the Conservative party, but left Tuesdayís speech at the Regina Inn with a handful of forms to encourage his friends to do the same. He admitted he may have to tell them to "turn a blind eye to the actual party logo." Despite the name of the party Orchard hopes to head, Lau likes what the left-leaning, Borden-area organic farmer has to say about protecting Canadian sovereignty from the U.S., ending the free trade agreement, and preserving the environment. "The stakes have become so much higher," he said.

Lau said all the mainstream parties have been hijacked by wealthy interest groups, and he hopes the majority of Canadians will say itís time to seek "real democracy," which Orchard is offering. "Itís about moving towards something thatís bold and vibrant," he said. Orchard is banking on people like Lau to win the Tory leadership and replace Joe Clark, to whom he finished a distant second in the 1998 leadership race. Heís hoping that by selling memberships to people who will support his bid for the leadership, heíll get more of his delegates to the June 1 convention in Toronto where the new leader will be chosen. Since each riding can send up to 10 delegates, Orchard is working on a strategy to focus his efforts on some of the weaker ridings that currently have few members. Some of those ridings are in Quebec, and Orchard is one of the few leadership hopefuls who can speak French. Itís that kind of strategy thatís causing concern among some of the party faithful who fear heís trying to hijack the federal Conservatives. When Orchard last took a run at the Tory leadership, Clark labelled him a "tourist" in the national party.

But Orchard told those gathered heís in the race "because Iím concerned about whatís happening to my country." "The Liberals are dismantling the institutions that were built to serve the people of this country," he said. He fears the Liberals are taking the country closer into the arms of the United States and wondered if the next step is to bring down the borders and embrace a common currency.

Orchard said heís about conserving Canada as a sovereign nation and believes that notion can rejuvenate the party and return the Tories - currently in fifth place in the House of Commons - to power. Orchard, who campaigned against the free trade agreement in the 1980s, said heís not against trade, but wants it done under the rules that govern world trade. "Not only did we not get free trade, we really unleashed American protectionism," he said.

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