Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette, Thursday, August 17, 2006
Orchard backs Dion for Liberal leadership
by Juliet O'Neill, CanWest News Service
OTTAWA - Maverick political activist David Orchard
has been encouraging former Progressive Conservatives to
join the Liberal party and has now endorsed Quebec MP
Stephane Dion as the best of 10 Liberal leadership
Orchard, a fervent Canadian nationalist who played
kingmaker at the 2003 Progressive Conservative
leadership convention, says he endorsed Dion Wednesday
because he is likeliest to lead the Liberals to defeat
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative
"There's a whole progressive side of that party that
doesn't have a home," Orchard said in an interview from
Saskatoon. "The only home left for the progressive
conservatives is in the Liberal party and helping to
make that into a viable alternative to the
administration of Mr. Harper."
Dion welcomed the addition of Orchard to his team,
saying in a separate interview "we are a big tent."
He did not give Orchard any formal title or make any
deals with him, he said. Orchard had spoken to all
leadership candidates and chose Dion for his policy
platform and his decade-long record in Liberal
Orchard praised Dion's achievements as an ardent
environmentalist and champion of the Kyoto accord; a
firm supporter of the Canadian Wheat Board and
supply-management agricultural programs; a renowned
advocate of Canadian unity; and for his call for an
immediate ceasefire during the Israeli-Hezbollah war in
"When you add it all up I think that he is an
effective leader who can stand against Stephen Harper,"
he said. He could not say how many delegates he might be
able to deliver to Dion at the Dec. 2 leadership
convention in Montreal.
Orchard, an organic farmer, is perhaps best known for
his years of opposition to the Canada-U.S. free trade
agreement and for being betrayed by PC leader Peter
MacKay after ensuring his election at the 2003
convention. Orchard came third in the race after Jim
Prentice, and channeled many of his delegates to MacKay
in exchange for a deal to review the free-trade
agreement and to stave off a merger with the then
Canadian Alliance party.
"No deals, no commitments," Dion said. "I am not open
to revisiting free trade at this time," Dion said. As
for Orchard's support for the traditional definition of
marriage, Dion said he supports court rulings, which
extend rights and responsibilities to gay couples. "I
don't think it will be revisited," he added.
Ontario MP Bryon Wilfert, one of Dion's Liberal
caucus supporters said the message of the event was that
Dion's campaign is growing and can attract supporters
beyond a traditional Liberal base.
"The Progressive Conservative party does not exist
anymore because Mr. MacKay betrayed Mr. Orchard and so
it's the progressive people that are coming into our
party and we welcome them," Dion said. " "We welcome
everyone who is willing to work with me."
Orchard joined the Liberals during the last election
"And ever since I've been calling on people to help
rebuild the party as a viable alternative to stop Mr.
Harper and what he is doing to our country, taking us
tighter and tighter into the U.S. embrace on a whole
number of fronts, including falling lockstep in the
foreign affairs direction of the U.S. administration,"
he said. "I want Canada to stand on its own two feet on
the world stage."