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The Leader-Post (Regina), Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Some former PCs feel disenfranchised

by Kevin O'connor

Although the Conservative Party says its merged membership is on the same songsheet in Saskatchewan, some former Progressive Conservatives are singing a different tune.

David Orchard, a PC leadership candidate in the 2003 race that eventually went to Peter MacKay, says he'll definitely vote for somebody on June 28.

However, there's no way he'll vote for a Conservative candidate, Orchard said.

"No ... not for (Conservative leader Stephen) Harper and the people around him who have taken the party a long way from the conservative values I've always believed in," Orchard said Tuesday.

In the 2000 election, Progressive Conservative candidates finished no higher than third place in any Saskatchewan riding, but Orchard did the best, receiving about 12 per cent of the vote for the PCs in Prince Albert.

Orchard is fighting last year's merger of the Alliance and PCs through the courts.

In December, an Ontario court judge threw out his lawsuit challenging the merger. Last month Orchard appealed the decision, with the appeal court reserving its decision.

Orchard said he's convinced there are many PCs across Saskatchewan and Canada who feel as he does and don't want to vote Conservative.

"I don't think there are many PCs that will suck it up and vote for Mr. Harper," he said.

"You've seen the whole PC wing disenfranchised."

However, the Conservatives are banking on Orchard being wrong.

Barry Firby, Conservative regional organizer for Manitoba and Saskatchewan, says voters are intelligent, are aware the PCs and Conservatives are different parties and understand the reasons behind the merger.

"For the most part ... the public at large, they're accepting it," Firby said last week.

"There are die-hards on both sides, but overwhelmingly it's working out really well."

Firby also said today's voters don't link today's federal Conservatives with the Grant Devine provincial PCs of the 1980s, although the other parties might try to make that link.

Earlier this year, Devine sought the Conservative nomination in Souris-Moose Mountain, but the party rejected his application.

Devine speculated that the Conservatives rejected his nomination bid as a reaction to the Tory fraud scandal, although he was never personally implicated.

According to University of Regina political science professor Howard Leeson, Devine's entry in the Souris-Moose Mountain race could mean vote-splitting with the Conservative candidate, Ed Komarnicki.

David Krayden, communications director for Wascana Conservative candidate Doug Cryer, agreed with Firby that both former Alliance members and PCs are working together on the campaigns.

"Generally, we've been fairly succesful in getting participation from both camps," Krayden said. "Really, it's one camp now."

Krayden said as far as today's voters are concerned, previous provincial and federal PC administrations are from a different era.

"Those are the old days. This is a new party," Krayden said.

"It's not the party of Grant Devine and it's not the party of Brian Mulroney."

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