Winnipeg Free Press, Friday, April 8th, 2005
Orchard wants his money back
by Frances Russell
David Orchard, the bilingual fourth-generation
Saskatchewan farmer who brought the second largest
number of delegates to the Progressive Conservative
Party's 2003 leadership convention, says the
Conservative party is blackmailing him with $77,000 of
his own money.
"This is under the Canada Elections Act," Mr. Orchard
said in an interview. "(Conservative Leader Stephen
Harper), whose policies I have opposed, used my money to
run an election campaign last June. How is the party
able to get away with this? There's all kinds of
ramifications under the Canada Elections Act for a
candidate who overspends, what, $5,000. But here you've
got a political party just brazenly... they've grabbed
Before it will turn over the $77,000 in campaign
contributions and costs it owes him, the Conservative
party is demanding Mr. Orchard waive all his rights to
sue Deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay, "his heirs,
executors, successors, administrators, executors" or his
agents; or the party or its agents, for "all manner of
actions, causes of actions, suits, debts, dues,
accounts, bonds, covenants, contracts, claims and
Mr. Orchard placed second to former Tory leader Joe
Clark in the 1998 PC leadership race. At the 2003
convention, he was the kingmaker, delivering his
supporters to Peter MacKay in a dramatic, between-ballot
pact in which Mr. MacKay pledged not to merge the PCs
with the Canadian Alliance and to reassess the impact of
continental free trade on the Canadian economy.
Within weeks, Mr. MacKay began secret talks with the
Alliance that concluded with the creation of the new
Conservative party amid allegations of Alliance
"swamping" of PC constituency associations. The promised
free trade review fizzled.
Mr. Orchard was one of several former PCs who went to
court in an unsuccessful attempt to block the
PC-Alliance merger. He admits he could still sue Mr.
MacKay for fraud and breach of trust but insists he has
"no intention of suing anybody. I am not going to be
blackmailed with my money into giving up rights that are
mine under the constitution. What are they afraid of?
This has nothing to do with my money."
Under the PC party constitution, leadership
candidates were guaranteed their donations and
registration fees back within 48 hours of the party
receiving them and mailing out tax credit receipts to
contributors. All other candidates obtained their
refunds except Mr. Orchard, including Scott Brison, who
defected to the Liberals and is federal public works
At first, Mr. Orchard blamed the delay on his court
battle against the merger. "But forty-eight hours has
now turned into a year and a half."
He sued the party in early 2004. At the compulsory
mediation stage, "Peter MacKay's lawyer... started off
saying we don't owe you anything because the party
doesn't exist any more," Mr. Orchard says. "So we
pointed out to them that the new party assumed all the
debts, the assets and liabilities, of the two previous
parties... So they tried to be smart about that. Then a
week or two later they offered $19,000, then $34,000 and
then $44,000 and I kept saying no, you owe me $70,000.
Then just before Christmas they said all right, we'll
give you $70,000 plus $7,000 of legal costs and will you
take that and I said yes."
Still no money came. In February, the party's lawyers
presented him with the no-sue demand. "This has been a
systematic attempt to bully and to shut me up and to
intimidate me and to try and break me financially," Mr.
Orchard concludes. He's going back to court, this time
asking for $200,000 in punitive damages, too.
The party banned Mr. Orchard from its first policy
convention last month, first accepting his $500
registration fee as an observer and then refunding it
and rejecting his membership and giving no reasons.
The Canadian nationalist and environmentalist
believes the party's animus goes well beyond his
anti-merger activities and possible lawsuits and is
really about his political beliefs.
Senior Conservative strategist Geoff Norquay lent
credence to that, telling the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:
"Who cares what David Orchard thinks or says? His 15
minutes are up."
Mr. Orchard is reviewing his political options. He
says "things are exceptionally dangerous for Canada
right now." He doesn't believe most Canadians want the
right-wing, decentralist and continentalist policies
offered by the Conservatives. But given the scandal
engulfing the Liberals, an election could bring a
Conservative-Bloc Quebecois alliance "that could have
serious consequences for Canada on a number of fronts.
The Conservatives' words about being open and inclusive
and a Big Tent are nullified by their actions, cutting
out not just David Orchard but the whole progressive
side of the Progressive Conservative party, the only
side, I might add, that caused that party to be