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Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Toronto Star online, Wednesday, February 1, 2006 (same story variously titled "Tory government can't be trusted, David Orchard says" published in papers across the country)

Orchard lashes out at Conservatives

Canadian Press

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are not to be trusted, says David Orchard, the Saskatchewan farmer who insists he was betrayed by Harper and Tory MP Peter MacKay when Canada's two right-of-centre parties merged in 2003.

Orchard, a one-time candidate to lead the now-defunct Progressive Conservative party, lashed out at the newly elected government today as a judge finally put an end to his longstanding feud with the Conservative Party of Canada over campaign donations.

The judge ruled that Orchard cannot seek further litigation regarding donations against the party as part of a settlement that returns to him nearly $70,000 in funds raised during his leadership bid.

Orchard said the federal Conservatives are in no position to talk about ethics since MacKay reneged on his promise that he would not merge the Canadian Alliance party with the PCs in 2003.

He said the Tories had no authority to criticize the outgoing Liberals of corruption and deal-breaking during the federal election campaign.

"They were the ones that were campaigning across the country. . . pointing the finger at the other side saying, 'There's corruption on the other side and they're not trustworthy, they break their deals,' " Orchard said outside court.

"Mr. MacKay blatantly broke a written agreement with me, and the party seized $70,000 of my funds, and so I'm saying they're in no position to be lecturing the rest of the political spectrum in Canada about ethics."

Orchard was in a Toronto courtroom to resolve the final details of a December 2004 court settlement awarding him nearly $70,000 in campaign funds. The money was raised in 2003 as he sought to lead the Progressive Conservative Party.

He bowed to leadership rival MacKay in exchange for a written agreement that MacKay would not merge the Tories with the Canadian Alliance. But after MacKay won the leadership he reneged on his promise.

While the judge imposed a release on both parties stating Orchard would not seek further litigation against the Conservatives regarding the disputed funds, it does not prevent Orchard from making other claims on other parties, such as MacKay.

Orchard's lawyer argued for a simple declaration that cleared the party of future claims regarding the disputed money.

But lawyers for the Conservative Party wanted assurances that no one associated with the party could face a claim for anything done in the past, even aside from the disputed funds.

Orchard, who abandoned the party after the merger and supported the Liberals during the last election, said he is still waiting for the money.

Orchard supporter George Shepherd, 60, said he never intended for his $500 contribution to be a part of the merger.

"Those were funds for him (Orchard) and his bid to have leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party," Shepherd said.

"When I saw what happened – the manipulation and the fraud, actually, of where the money went – I got pretty upset."

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