The StarPhoenix, Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Orchard offers support to Grits
Former leadership hopeful says Conservative gov't would work with
By Janet French
Former Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful
David Orchard publicly backed the Liberals Tuesday,
calling a Stephen Harper Conservative government a
threat to national unity.
"In triggering this election at this time, both
Harper and (NDP Leader Jack) Layton were prepared to
play with the fires of Quebec nationalism in order to
increase their own positions," Orchard said. "It's a
dangerous and a short-term effort that could hurt our
country badly. I believe that there's only one party
capable of holding our country together, and that's (the
Orchard, who farms near Borden, made the statements
in Saskatoon while announcing he is backing Saskatoon-Wanuskewin
Liberal candidate Chris Axworthy, a friend of 20 years.
If the Conservatives form government, they will
govern with the support of the Bloc Quebecois and work
towards granting more power to the provinces, Orchard
"The Bloc will certainly be right there with him
(Harper) on that," he said. "That will be another
wonderful step forward for the separatists in their
strategy of step-by-step taking Quebec out of Canada."
In 2003, when Orchard ran against Peter MacKay for
leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, he
signed a deal with MacKay in which Orchard supporters
voted for MacKay in exchange for his word he would not
merge the party with the Canadian Alliance. MacKay later
reneged on his promise and Orchard failed in a bid to
stop the parties from merging into the Conservative
Party of Canada.
Orchard also says the Conservative party owes him
$70,000 in campaign donations he garnered during the
"These are the men who clothe themselves in white
robes as paragons of virtue, telling us they're going to
run a government based on honesty, ethics and
integrity," Orchard said.
Orchard, an opponent of the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA), also said he's pleased with how Prime
Minister Paul Martin has been holding America's feet to
the fire over the softwood lumber dispute.
Axworthy said Orchard's endorsement is "not to
necessarily attract voters," but to help voters
understand the Liberals' plans.
Saskatoon-Wanuskewin Conservative candidate Maurice
Vellacott said he doesn't think Orchard's endorsement of
Axworthy will have much effect on voters.
"David has something of a personal issue with Peter
MacKay and he kind of blows it (up) or tries to take it
bigger," Vellacott said. "He's feeling jilted out of
that relationship. But I think the public can see beyond
that. They're not interested in these disagreements.
It's petty to them and trivial in view of the larger
Giving powers to the provinces will empower the West
rather than send Quebec packing, Vellacott said.
"The federal government, with their spending power,
has kind of bought their way into a bunch of other areas
that nobody asked them to be involved in and are much
better handled closer to home at the provincial and the
municipal levels of government," he said.
Jim Maddin, the riding's NDP candidate, said Orchard
and Axworthy should spend more time talking to voters
and less time crossing party lines. Axworthy was an NDP
MP in Saskatoon from 1988 to 1999 and then served as a
provincial NDP cabinet minister.
"It certainly has an impact or could have an impact
in this riding," Maddin said of Orchard's Liberal
endorsement. "(But) politicians talking to politicians
and not to voters -- I don't know if that bodes well for
any of them, to be honest with you."