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See Marjaleena Repo's response, "On being yaffied" and an edited version, published in the Vancouver Sun, Friday, January 25, 2008, "Shafting by Yaffe based on factoids, canards"
Vancouver Sun
, Friday, January 11, 2008

Maverick Orchard finds a new party to tangle with

by Barbara Yaffe

Would-be politician David Orchard would most certainly qualify for the Rodney Dangerfield Award, if one existed.

The Saskatchewan farmer, formerly unable to get any respect as a Progressive Conservative, switched in 2006 to the Liberals. Now, he's encountering a decided lack of respect in those quarters, too.

It may be time to coin a new, made-in-Canada verb: to be orcharded. The word would be ideal to describe the shafting of an individual.

Orchard's story is rather compelling and says something about the cruel game that politics can be.

The 57-year-old organic produce businessman became a national figure in 1998 when he took his first run at the Progressive Conservative party leadership. He lost, and lost again in the 2003 leadership race.

In the second contest, he reinforced his reputation as a superb organizer. In return for handing over his delegates to leadership contender Peter MacKay — now defence minister in the Harper government — he struck a deal to ensure the party would not unite with the Canadian Alliance.

MacKay later reneged on the pact, pragmatically entering into a merger agreement with then-Alliance leader Stephen Harper.

Orchard promptly stood before every microphone he could find to declare he'd been betrayed, a fuss that resulted in the political wounding of MacKay. Orchard proceeded to launch several lawsuits against his party.

In 2005 the Conservatives revoked Orchard's party membership. No big surprise given that Orchard had labelled the new partisan force "an abomination, sired in betrayal and born out of deception."

A year later Orchard resurfaced as a Liberal and once again became a political player by virtue of his organizational talents. At the Grit leadership convention he threw his delegates to Stephane Dion and thereby became instrumental in Dion's victory.

While Orchard has never won a seat for himself provincially or federally, on becoming a Liberal he declared his intention to run for his new party in a northern Saskatchewan riding.

But lo, Orchard has now been newly stiffed. Last week, Dion announced a personal pick as the Liberal candidate in the riding where Orchard had been eagerly organizing.

Dion declared that recently elected provincial NDPer, Joan Beatty, will run for the federal Liberals in a March 17 byelection, called to fill Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, a seat that had been vacated by a Liberal.

Now, people may question why Dion, whose own popularity is in question, would court a fuss in a marginal riding.

After all, the backstabbing of Orchard could leave Dion looking disloyal, given that the wannabe candidate helped crown him. Worse, the Liberal leader could be accused of interfering in a local nomination contest — never a popular move.

Dion would doubtless argue that he's acting in his party's best interest, that Orchard just isn't a comfortable fit for the Liberals.

Indeed he is not, just as he was not a good fit in his former party. While political organizations should be big-tent structures welcoming any and all comers, Orchard truly is a political oddball.

Articulate, bilingual and adept at political organization, he also happens to be a social conservative and is vigorously opposed to the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. For that matter, he's critical of any Canadian alignment with the U.S.

Beatty, meanwhile, is an aboriginal woman in a largely aboriginal riding, who has proven herself electable.

And her appointment is in keeping with Dion's pledge to ensure that a strong contingent of women will be running for the party in the next election.

But this little melodrama may not end nicely. Orchard won't go down without a fight. And, as Conservatives know too well, he knows how to make himself a nuisance.

Accordingly, his supporters are banding together to organize "an emergency meeting" on Saturday, to pick their own Liberal candidate.

Orchard backers declared this week in a news release that the Liberals are imposing "an Indian Act mentality [that is] undemocratic and which insults us."

If there's a lesson in all this, it's surely that loyalty in politics is often in short supply; anyone who jumps into the fray runs a risk of getting orcharded.

byaffe@png.canwest.com


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