Vancouver Sun, April 29, 2003
Orchard candidacy provokes Tory nastiness
by Barbara Yaffe
Something is going on in a Conservative riding association on Vancouver
Island that doesn't pass the smell test. Predictably, that "something"
is connected to David Orchard's leadership campaign.
For those not closely following the Tory race to replace Joe Clark,
Peter MacKay is favoured to win a Toronto vote on June 1. Of course,
SARS could affect attendance, and voting results. Most believe Orchard
delegates are sure shows, SARS or no SARS.
Mr. Orchard, an organic farmer from Saskatchewan, is in a fairly
strong No. 2 spot. Throughout the lacklustre campaign, he has received
more publicity than other candidates because he has assiduously
been playing the role of mouse in a cheese factory.
That is, Mr. Orchard has a whole lot of Tories in a tizzy. They
see him as a New Democrat in Conservative clothing, and believe
if he becomes leader the party will die. Accordingly, some nastiness
has been directed his way.
Mr. Orchard acknowledges his conservatism is different than that
of his six competitors -- but says this serves to offer Conservatives
a broader choice.
Specifically, Mr. Orchard is more left-leaning, viewing himself
a traditionalist, in the manner of John Diefenbaker. He opposes
the free trade accord with the U.S. -- a Conservative initiative
and source of huge pride in the party. He spoke against the Iraq
war and considers the environment a top priority.
Mr. Orchard has zero interest in breaking bread with the Canadian
Alliance and believes a party in the moderate middle is best positioned
to electorally challenge the Liberals.
All of which brings us back to that Vancouver Island North riding
The riding, stretching from Comox to Port Hardy, is the only one
in B.C. not to have had a delegate-selection meeting in preparation
for the leadership convention, delegates being the ones who vote.
The cutoff date for such meetings was April 10.
Had the riding held its meeting, eight of its 10 delegates would
have been pro-Orchard. In fact, 72 per cent of delegates from Vancouver
Island are Orchardites; 55 per cent of B.C. delegates are Orchard
The decision to scotch the delegate- selection meeting reflects
"shameful behavior and dirty tricks," contends Orchard
campaign worker Craig Mcguigan, coordinator of student services
at Nanaimo's Malaspina College.
And why was the meeting scotched? Riding president Ken Dawson says
cryptically, "abusive phone calls and unacceptable behaviour"
forced the cancellation. He won't elaborate, but a March 16 e-mail
to area PC workers regarding the riding provides clues.
The e-mail, written by Garry Holland, president of the Saanich-Gulf
Islands riding association, says Vancouver Island North riding members
complaining about the meeting's cancellation "are all new members
of less than three months, and we have investigated thoroughly to
learn they are ALL members of the NDP and are all supporting [David
"These people have taken their gutter-fighting to our party
headquarters with a dishonest spin on their motives."
Indeed Mr. Mcguigan has written to party secretary Dominique Bellemare
about what he terms "irregularities."
"Rumours abound of petty and deceitful behavior across the
country. I am deeply concerned that the process is already hopelessly
Mr. Mcguigan, a Tory since 2001, says he's concerned the party's
reputation as well as the integrity of the leadership convention
is at stake.
"The party is doomed to the political sidelines if it does
not become a more welcoming environment for a wider constituency."
In other words, Orchard supporters must stop being shunned.
While new members may in fact have been recruited in the Vancouver
Island North riding, as Mr. Holland asserts, that's what's suppose
to happen during leadership campaigns.
Mr. Mcguigan maintains recruitment of NDPers to the Tories wouldn't
be feasible because NDPers like their own new leader, Jack Layton.
Whatever the story behind the story, Mr. Mcguigan is correct in
his concern about fair play. Vancouver Island North Tories have
been denied the right to send delegates to the convention.
In the end, this can only hurt the party and its next leader, probably
Mr. MacKay. There's now doubt he'll be able to say he won fair and
© Copyright 2003 Vancouver Sun