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David Orchard mulls run at Liberal leadership

Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Saskatchewan farmer and two-time Tory leadership hopeful David Orchard is thinking about leaping into the Liberal race.

"What I'm really doing right now is taking calls. I certainly had not been considering it, but calls kept coming so I kept answering them and listening to what people have to say,'' Orchard said in an interview.

"I'm not ruling anything in or anything out.''

Orchard ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, where he was regarded as an outsider -- but a powerful one.

His last kick at the Conservative can saw him come a strong second to Peter MacKay. His support on the final ballot in exchange for a guarantee of no merger with Stephen Harper's Alliance secured MacKay's victory.

When the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance, Orchard found a new political home with the Liberals. He took out a Liberal membership before the last election.

Anyone who dismisses Orchard as a dreamer does so at their own peril.

Orchard proved in his time with the Progressive Conservatives that he has a strong, loyal following across Canada that turns out to vote at convention time.

"One of the very prominent Liberals recently told me that there isn't a Liberal in the country that has a database of 30,000 names like you do,'' Orchard said.

Still, he expressed reservations over the short lead-up time to the convention. The cut-off for selling memberships to would-be supporters is late June.

Orchard is a strong proponent of sustainable development and strongly opposes genetically modified foods. His organic farm, now specializing in alfalfa, is a hugely successful operation in central Saskatchewan.

He is a self-professed defender of the Canadian military, but did not approve of Canada's deployment to Afghanistan.

Orchard is also bilingual, and spent the last six weeks in Quebec City keeping his language skills intact.

He joins a growing list of potential leadership candidates. So far, only two people, businesswoman Martha Hall Findlay and Liberal MP John Godfrey, have thrown their hats into the ring.

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