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Canadian Press, Friday, December 5, 2003

Ontario judge rejects Tory maverick David Orchard's lawsuit

by Greg Bonnell

David Orchard's lawsuit against the Progressive Conservative party over its proposal to merge with the Canadian Alliance has no merit, an Ontario judge ruled Friday.

"The application is dismissed in its entirety," Superior Court Justice Russell Juriansz said in a written decision.

The ruling came after a full day of arguments Thursday in which Sean Dewart, who represents Orchard and 22 other disgruntled Tories, said a merger can only take place with the unanimous consent of the members.

Dewart argued that neither the Canada Elections Act nor the party's constitution permit the party to merge with another without the membership's 100 per cent support.

Arthur Hamilton, one of the lawyers representing the party, disagreed, saying party officials "have all followed the constitution and the bylaws" in drafting the merger proposal.

On Friday, Alliance Leader Stephen Harper announced that 96 per cent of Alliance delegates had voted to support the proposal in mail-in balloting. Tory delegates will cast their ballots Saturday.

Orchard's suit didn't seek to block the merger; Saturday's vote would have proceeded regardless of the decision.

Rather, the suit was designed to ensure the PC party's name and assets would survive a merger, regardless of whether party members support the plan.

In court Thursday, however, Hamilton accused Orchard of using the courts as a stalling tactic.

At the party's leadership convention in May, Orchard was in third place when he lent his support to eventual winner Peter MacKay in exchange for a promise the party wouldn't merge with the Alliance.

Five months later, MacKay and Alliance Leader Stephen Harper declared an agreement in principle to merge the two parties.

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