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CanWest News Service, Thursday, March 17, 2005 (printed in the Edmonton Journal, Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Montreal Gazette)
NB: This article contains some crucial factual errors. Contrary to what the author states, David Orchard was not advised by party officials subsequent to sending in his registration, that his party membership had expired. His membership renewal and convention registration were both submitted at the same time, February 4, by his brother Grant Orchard, on-line, and paid for separately with David Orchard's own VISA card. (He has the statement showing the transactions.) David Orchard also received a letter from the Conservative party, dated February 10, confirming his status as a member-observer.

David Orchard banned from Tory convention

by Anne Dawson

OTTAWA - The federal Conservatives have banned David Orchard from attending the party's policy convention in Montreal for failing to have a valid membership.

The twice failed leadership candidate for the Progressive Conservative party has accused Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his tight-knit group of officials of trying to "pick and choose'' who they want at their convention despite their claim to be a "big-tent'' party open to all.

"This is absolute nonsense. They now appear to be saying only certain people are welcome. I don't see how that's going to fly anywhere in Canada,'' said Orchard, who arrived in Montreal Wednesday night.

But Conservative executive director Ian Brodie dismissed Orchard's allegations insisting he's being treated like any other individual attempting to attend the convention as an observer without a valid membership.

"We said no to everybody who didn't have a valid membership,'' said Brodie.

Orchard is best known for the deal he struck with Peter MacKay in the 2003 PC leadership race. MacKay secured the leadership after promising Orchard he would steer clear of merger talks with the Alliance. MacKay later reneged on his promise and Orchard subsequently failed in his legal attempt to stop the merger.

Orchard said he paid $540 to attend the convention as an observer a few months ago.

He was subsequently advised by party officials that his $10 membership had expired at the end of 2004. Orchard's brother, who handles all his business dealings, renewed the membership online Feb. 4 using Orchard's credit card.

Orchard said he has a confirmation, number CPC0917, from the party to prove it.

However, three days ago he said he was notified by Brodie that his observer registration was being cancelled because he didn't personally renew his membership. Orchard rejects the suggestion that his membership wasn't valid because his brother sent the e-mail and said even then, he offered to pay his $10 in person upon arrival. That offer was also rejected.

"The council decided that it was in the interests of the party that they didn't want him to be a member of the party any longer,'' said Brodie.

Sources say, however, that a number of court battles between Orchard and the party are at the bottom of this problem.

Orchard launched a court battle in 2003 to get the party to pay him the $70,000 in expenses he said he was owed from the leadership race. Sources say an agreement had been reached but Orchard reneged at the last minute.

Orchard said Wednesday night the only reason he refused to go along with the settlement was because the party attempted to make him sign a "sweeping waiver'' at the last minute never to sue anyone in the old Tory party or the new Conservative party again as a condition of getting the money.

"I'm not going to be blackmailed into signing something E to get the money that is owed me,'' said Orchard, adding he will continue his legal battle with the party.

Orchard wouldn't say Wednesday if he has something planned to upstage the convention by travelling to Montreal even though he can't attend.

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