Hill Times (Ottawa), March 28 – April 3, 2005
Orchard wants Conservatives to pay his leadership campaign money
Conservative Party agreed to settle money issue last
By Christopher Guly
Denied a Conservative Party membership and refused
entry as a "member-observer" at the federal
Conservatives' recent policy convention in Montreal,
David Orchard says he's still waiting for the party to
hand over more than $70,000, excluding another $10,000
in legal costs and interest, he claims are owed to him
as a result of his run for his unsuccessful leadership
run for the former federal Progressive Conservative
Party of Canada two years ago.
Last week in Toronto, Ontario Superior Court Justice
Faye McWatt dismissed a motion by the Conservative Party
of Canada to have Mr. Orchard accept a settlement and
sign a broad "mutual release" that would prevent him
from using "the allegations in [his] statement of
claim...in any subsequent or future context."
The party's release form — and the above-cited clause
particularly — "may be somewhat overreaching," she said
in a handwritten decision, which also dismissed Mr.
Orchard's proposed release document that only precludes
any future action concerning his specific money claim.
Judge McWatt ordered both sides to come up with
Marjaleena Repo, who served as chief financial
officer for Mr. Orchard's unsuccessful PC leadership
campaign in 2003, said the federal Conservatives are
trying to "harass David Orchard," in part because of the
lawsuit he and 22 others launched last year to preserve
the PC Party.
Over $55,000 in Mr. Orchard's leadership campaign
donations sent to Conservative Party headquarters in
December 2003 to pay for his campaign debts and a
$15,000 refundable deposit for each of the seven PC
leadership candidates was "snatched from him," said Ms.
Repo, who serves as a senior adviser to Mr. Orchard.
"The money is David Orchard's, he was entitled to get
every penny of the donations back," said Ms. Repo.
Last December, the Conservative Party of Canada
agreed to settle the money issue with Mr. Orchard after
he sued the party over the matter in February 2004. On
Dec. 17, 2004, the Conservative Party of Canada agreed
to pay Mr. Orchard $68,000 plus $1,800 interest (based
on a three-per-cent rate and dating back to Dec. 21,
2003) and $7,500 in legal costs as part of a settlement
after he launched a lawsuit against the party in
February 2004 to recover the money he claims is owed to
Ms. Repo said that two PC Party audits of the Orchard
campaign's books, along with assurances from both Darren
Cunningham, chief financial officer of the PC Party of
Canada, and Susan J. Kehoe, CFO of the Conservative
Party’s fundraising arm, Conservative Fund Canada,
between September 2003 and February 2004 indicated that
the financial reports were "complete and in order."
However, the settlement was based on Mr. Orchard
signing the party's release form, which includes
"everything but the kitchen sink," said Ms. Repo in a
telephone interview from Saskatoon, Sask.
According to the Conservative Party's mutual release
document, Mr. Orchard would be prevented from taking
legal action against the party and anyone associated
with it — including its leader and deputy leader — "by
reason of any case, matter or thing...[he has] ever had,
now has or can, shall or may hereafter."
Ms. Repo said she believes the release is
"protecting" Conservative Deputy Leader Peter MacKay
(Central Nova, N.S.), who signed an agreement with Mr.
Orchard, on a page in Mr. Orchard's notebook, at the
2003 PC Party leadership convention to abide by the PC's
constitution and not to merge that party with the
Alliance in exchange for the support of Mr. Orchard's
delegated and propel Mr. MacKay to the leadership.
Mr. MacKay's office declined to comment last week
specifically on this issue, but in a detailed letter to
the editor in The Hill Times published on Dec. 13, Mr.
MacKay wrote: "Regarding the agreement reached at the PC
Leadership in 2003, there is a collective truth in the
media and the public that I signed a deal which I later
ignored. This is in fact false. I signed an agreement
that specifically included talks with other parties. The
failure to communicate the agreement is perhaps my
greatest regret. In retrospect, everyone leaving the
convention hall should have received a copy."
Ms. Repo told The Hill Times that broken deal "could"
still result in "a court case involving breach of
She said the Conservative Party's proposed legal
release is an "attempt to use our money to blackmail
David Orchard" and to "prevent him from acting in his
own interest if he might so decide" in the future.
"They’re claiming they’re doing that to prevent
mischief by David Orchard, meanwhile they are the ones
who have taken the money."
Ms. Repo explained that a legal contract signed by
Mr. Orchard in January 2003 when he entered the PC
leadership race included a provision that all campaign
donations sent to the party for processing and to issue
donors a tax receipt would be returned to the candidate
within "two business days."
However, in its statement of defence and counterclaim
filed with the Ontario Superior Court last April, the
Conservative Party argued that Mr. Orchard failed to
meet his reporting and payment obligations under the
rules and procedures for leadership candidates that
applied to both the PC Party and now apply to the
As a result, his $15,000 deposit was "forfeited" — a
point cited among various issues (including donations
subject to a 15-per-cent administrative fee) raised in
the document filed by the party's lawyer, Arthur
Hamilton of the Toronto firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party spokesman Geoff
Norquay added that during a leadership race, "certain
expenses that benefit all candidates will be incurred on
their behalf by the party and charged back to them, and
any amount owing to leadership candidates are remitted
back to them.
Said Mr. Norquay: "Generally, this takes some time."
However, Ms. Repo said that two PC Party audits of
the Orchard campaign’s books, along with assurances from
both Darren Cunningham, chief financial officer of the
PC Party of Canada, and Susan J. Kehoe, the Conservative
Party’s CFO, between September 2003 and February 2004
indicated that the financial reports were "complete and
Ms. Repo said the party then told her "no, you can’t
have" the money, a decision she said she believes was
the result of the federal Conservatives "hoping to keep
the money for the legal costs" associated with defending
the lawsuit to preserve the PC Party.
Mr. Orchard then launched his lawsuit in February
2004, followed by a counterclaim by the Conservative
Party, each of which sought damages against the other.
“These are the people [Conservative MPs] who are
constantly standing up in the House of Commons and
saying to the Liberal government, ' Give back the money'
over the sponsorship scandal, but this is a very
embarrassing issue in their own backyard," Ms. Repo
Mr. Norquay, who serves as communications director in
the office of Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper
(Calgary Southwest, Alta.), declined to comment on the
"he said-she said" allegations Ms. Repo raised.
"Besides, there is a settlement between the two sides
and the argument today really is just about how to get
that done," said Mr. Norquay.
But he did comment on the federal Conservatives’
decision to reject Mr. Orchard's party membership and
ban him from attending the recent convention in Montreal
as a member-observer, despite Mr. Orchard's claim that
his membership was renewed and his convention
registration was accepted.
"We have a simple rule," said Mr. Norquay. "To belong
to the party you have to subscribe to its objectives and
you have to be a supporter of the party, and he clearly