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The StarPhoenix, Monday, November 28, 2005

Conservative Party owes Orchard more than $70,000
Ex-leadership candidate alleges party being vindictive

By Daniel Jungwirth

Two and a half years after the Progressive Conservative leadership race, the Conservative Party of Canada has yet to pay David Orchard more than $70,000. About $55,000 of that is owed to the Borden-area farmer from donations to his leadership campaign.

"These were donations given to me, made out to my campaign and seized, I don't have them," said Orchard. "And they're now in the coffers of a completely different party, a party whose formation I opposed."

Orchard was referring to the 2003 merger uniting the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives.

Another $15,000 is from the refundable portion of a deposit all candidates had to pay, which all candidates received back except Orchard.

"All I can assume is that they're trying to crush me or force me under. I can't see anything else other than it being vindictive because I opposed the merger, which I would think in a democracy every person has the right to do," he said.

When contacted last week, a Conservative Party spokesperson said they had nothing to say on the issue.

Leadership candidates could submit donations up to the end of 2003 to head office in order for a tax receipt to be issued. These donations, which stopped coming to Orchard that December, were then supposed to be returned to candidates within 48 hours.

"(Donations) would have been put towards all the bills and debt that you have in running a campaign," Orchard said.

Orchard received interim finances from people coming forward with bridge loans as he waited for the donations to be returned.

Finally in February, 2004, Orchard launched a lawsuit against the Conservative Party of Canada, asking $500,000 for the amount owed, interest and punitive damages.

In the required mediation before trial, the party claimed Orchard hadn't followed procedure and rules. It was only after Orchard produced a message from the party's chief electoral officer* stating everything was in order that they began to offer a settlement. (*Note: this should read chief financial officer.)

"When they offered the $72,000, I said let's move on, it's been two years," he said.

That was last December. The cheque that was to be written before Christmas turned into a release from further lawsuits that came in February of this year.

"I may or may not sue Peter MacKay, that has nothing to do with this at all," he said.

"What bothers me at this point is that they feel they can strip away my legal rights, my civil rights, my constitutional rights using my own money to blackmail me into that."

In March, Ontario Superior Court Justice Faye McWatt decided the release "may be somewhat overreaching."

With the latest court date Wednesday postponed until Dec. 5, Orchard and the Conservative Party have once again come to a stalemate.

Tom Shore contributed to Orchard's leadership campaign and said the money needs to be returned.

"I think they're being vindictive," said the Carrot River resident. "I don't think politics should be run like that. This is a party that promised us different. It's the same."

If this is how the party is acting now, Shore questioned how the Conservative Party will act as government.

Orchard had similar thoughts.

"What gets me is, we have a new party talking about ethics, talking about honesty. Well they've grabbed $72,000 made in good faith."
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2005

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