Globe and Mail, August 17, 2006
MacKay's kingmaker backs Dion
Former Tory lends support from the West to Liberal hopeful
by Campbell Clark
OTTAWA -- David Orchard, once kingmaker for Peter
MacKay's Progressive Conservative leadership bid, threw
his organizational weight behind Liberal hopeful
Stéphane Dion yesterday.
Whether Mr. Orchard can deliver the kind of extensive
power on the ground that he demonstrated in two PC
leadership races remains unclear, but few doubt that it
will mean extra delegate support for Mr. Dion in Western
Canada, including his Saskatchewan weak spot.
The iconoclastic organic farmer known for his
opposition to free trade was tagged an interloper in the
old Tory party, but his network of volunteers -- he is
widely rumoured to have a database of 35,000 names --
earned him strong top-three finishes in two PC
leadership races, in 1998 and 2003.
Since joining the Liberal Party in January, Mr.
Orchard has attended a series of party events, and
briefly flirted with the idea of running himself, before
tapping Mr. Dion as his choice yesterday.
"He will play a very important role in the campaign.
We didn't discuss yet which role it will take, but I'm
very pleased he's coming to the team," Mr. Dion said in
an interview yesterday.
Mr. Dion said he made no deal for any specific role,
nor did he agree to change his platform to include Mr.
Orchard's concerns. He said the two have an affinity on
environmental and sustainable-economy issues, subjects
both have emphasized.
Mr. Orchard is most famous for signing a support pact
with Mr. MacKay on the leadership-convention floor in
2003, in which Mr. MacKay pledged there would be no
merger with the Canadian Alliance. The deal handed the
leadership to Mr. MacKay, who later agreed to a merger
with then-Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper.
Critics inside and outside the party complained the
deal signed over the Progressive Conservative future to
someone who was not an ideological Tory, and
then-Alliance MP Jason Kenney, now Mr. Harper's
parliamentary secretary, dubbed it a "deal with the
"Who was the devil in that story? Who betrayed who?"
Mr. Dion asked yesterday, saying that Mr. MacKay
"In my case, there is no deal, there is only a
well-known personality, a Liberal, willing to support me
and to give me his expertise, his views, his reputation
-- and I'm pleased by that. It will help me to be
stronger in order to convince my party and my country
that I have the good approach."
Mr. Orchard said that he backed Mr. Dion for his
experience, environmental positions and his defence of
He said he has not changed his views against the
North American free-trade agreement, arguing that the
softwood-lumber dispute shows the deal is not really
free trade at all.
The anti-free trade stand is now also outside the
orthodox Liberal position, but Mr. Orchard said he does
not feel unwelcome or controversial in the party.
"In the PC party, it didn't take a matter of weeks,
and suddenly I was in second place, so I guess
controversy can't be all bad," he said.
But Mr. Dion and Mr. Orchard were unwilling to say
how much support Mr. Orchard might bring to the
campaign, although some Liberal officials familiar with
the Orchard organization said that at the very least it
will bring in a motivated team of active volunteers.
"Some people think he's got some kind of ulterior
motive or something. I don't get it. I feel he just
wants to contribute to Canadian political life," said
Adam Campbell, president of the federal Liberals'
Alberta wing and a friend of Mr. Orchard.
"I think [people] underestimate them. I think they go
around thinking they're a kind of quaint bunch of
amateurs," he said. "There's an organization there. They
know how to work conventions. They've done it twice
In July, at the deadline for joining the party in
time to vote for leadership delegates, party officials
in Alberta and Saskatchewan noted that some of Mr.
Orchard's supporters had streamed in -- but no one has
Other leadership campaigns, including that of Bob
Rae, had courted Mr. Orchard's support. A spokesman for
Mr. Rae, Alex Swann, said Mr. Orchard attended some of
Mr. Rae's events and expressed an interest, spoke to Mr.
Rae, and that for a while, "communication continued on
While some Liberals speculated that Mr. Orchard's
backing could represent 150 convention delegates --
about 3 per cent of the total -- some organizers for
other camps said that he could only deliver perhaps 30
or 40. For example, about 200 of Mr. Orchard's
supporters joined the party in his home province of
Saskatchewan, one said. That province is one of Mr.
Dion's weakest, however, and with the small membership
base there, even 200 supporters could elect a number of