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Vancouver Sun, Friday, August 20, 2004
CanWest News service

Controversial Tory joins Greens: David Scrymgeour raises leadership candidate's cry that environmental party is drifting right

by Bill Curry

OTTAWA -- The Conservative party's first interim executive director David Scrymgeour -- who was also campaign director to Ontario Tory leadership candidate Jim Flaherty -- has jumped ship to work as an adviser to the Green party.

Scrymgeour was at the heart of the infamous backroom deal between David Orchard and Peter MacKay at the final Progressive Conservative convention that gave MacKay the party leadership. Orchard demanded MacKay remove Scrymgeour as the PCs' national director in exchange for his support because Scrymgeour was seen as overly supportive of a merger with the Canadian Alliance.

The appointment comes ahead of the Green party's leadership convention next week. One candidate is criticizing current leader Jim Harris for moving the party too close to the political right.

Ottawa Valley organic farmer Tom Manley says his candidacy should appeal to party members who are concerned the Greens' image is becoming too conservative.

Harris has always insisted his party transcends traditional definitions of left and right, but Manley said the leader's pro-big-business comments and the fact Harris was a Progressive Conservative in the 1980s have tainted the party's image.

"The support for my message has been very strong and yes there is general concern in the party that we're moving too far to the ideological right," Manley said. "I'm concerned that the current leadership is trying to take it (to the right) and I don't think that's correct."

While he does not know Scrymgeour personally, Manley said it is hard for the Green party to portray itself as a new political force if it relies on experts from the current political environment.

"I don't think we're going to accomplish much by bringing in outside expertise that is based on the politics of today when we're trying to develop the politics of tomorrow. This individual aside, no I don't support the notion of getting such outside expertise," he said.

As for Scrymgeour, 47, a wealthy businessman who takes on his political assignments for $1 a year, he is supporting the Greens because he sees a "huge opportunity" to help build a new party that will attract people from across the political spectrum who want to improve the environment.

"I am not saying anything negative about the Conservative party at all," he said. "The Green party has the tremendous advantage that it is attracting people from everywhere . . . This is its huge opportunity. In an increasingly polarized political spectrum where we have a number of long-standing parties, the Green party is a new global party that will celebrate and attract talent where it finds it."

Party leader Harris is expected to be reconfirmed in the Aug. 28 vote. He dismissed as leadership politics any suggestion that he has moved the Greens to the right, pointing out that many former NDP and Liberal supporters are on the Green team.

Scrymgeour's management experience with national political parties is what convinced the Green party's federal council to offer him the three-month contract, Harris said.

"We happen to be in a leadership contest and so there's reason to stir things up," he said. "If you look at the number of people we have in very prominent positions throughout the party who are former members of the NDP or the Liberal party, this is a fictitious thing."

Manley, Harris's main challenger, insists the leader is to blame for allowing the party's image to drift to the right. "For example, Jim in various speeches has clearly said we're not against big business as long as big business aligns itself with ecological sustainability," he said. "But large businesses are incompatible with community economics. They're all about transporting things halfway around the world, which is not ecologically sustainable."

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