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The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dion welcomes Orchard's endorsement
Support reflective of campaign, says Grit leadership candidate

by Lana Haight

Borden-area farmer David Orchard, a former candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, is endorsing Stephane Dion as the next federal Liberal leader.

"Mr. Dion and I certainly see eye-to-eye on a number of issues," Orchard said at a news conference in Saskatoon on Wednesday afternoon.

"The discussions that we've had, whether it's on the environment, whether it's on our place in the world, whether it's on keeping our country together, we've seen essentially eye-to-eye."

Dion, a Quebec MP, served for 10 years on the government side of the House of Commons before being re-elected in the last federal election, which saw the Liberals voted out of office. Most of his time in government was spent as a cabinet minister, first under Jean Chretien as intergovernmental affairs minister and then under Paul Martin as environment minister. He announced in April he would seek the Liberal party leadership.

Even before Dion's announcement, he and Orchard had begun discussions by telephone and in person about the Liberal leadership race. Orchard says he spoke to several of the other nine leadership candidates before deciding to throw his support behind Dion.

"Stephane's commitment to a tolerant, bilingual country that defends the institutions that have been built over time -- Canadian institutions that have helped to make us what we are -- on all these fronts, it gives me great pleasure to support Stephane," Orchard told more than 30 people who assembled at the Delta Bessborough Hotel to hear the announcement.

Dion said he wanted Orchard's support because the Borden-area organic farmer has a vision for and commitment to Canada, a commitment to public life and depth of character. Dion is especially impressed by Orchard's national profile.

"(I've been) campaigning (for) months now for this leadership. I have seen people speaking to me about David in every province I went, telling me, 'We hope David and you will work together,' " said Dion.

Dion says the Saskatoon news conference was called to announce Orchard had joined his team, because Orchard's support is symbolic of the campaign he's running.

"It revolves around rural Canada and urban Canada, a farmer from Saskatchewan and a professor of university from Montreal, a big tent in the Liberal party," he said in an interview.

Orchard had considered joining the leadership race himself. He says because he is a relatively new Liberal, he has a lot to learn and decided the best use of his energy at this time was to support Dion.

Orchard is pleased he's found a home for his ideas.

"When I joined the Liberal party, David Orchard and his ideas (didn't) stay back on the farm. I'll take those ideas into the Liberal party, which has asked for them. The party has a renewal process," said Orchard.

He is adamant he didn't switch to the Liberals from the PC party because when the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance, the PC party no longer existed.

"I was left party-less. The question becomes then: Do I choose one of the other parties or do I go back to my farm and give up on my ideas and all those ideas we worked so hard (on) for our country? I took a membership in the Liberal party. I don't think anybody can accuse me of doing this for advantage. I joined the Liberal party when it was going down and everyone could see it was going down last January," he said.

Orchard is considering running as a Liberal candidate in the next federal election.

lhaight@sp.canwest.com


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