National Post, August 3, 2002
Federal Tory leadership
Activist poised to win leadership, MP warns
Hazards of ousting Clark
by Bill Curry
OTTAWA -- Tories eager to topple Joe Clark at this month's leadership
review in Edmonton should be careful what they wish for, warns Scott
Brison, a Tory MP and Clark supporter, who says anti-globalization
advocate David Orchard could end up taking over the party if the
leader is ousted.
Mr. Brison has been telling party members that with the party's
total membership down to 10,000 people, Mr. Orchard could use the
support he has among left-leaning interest groups, as well as his
own political organization, to win a leadership convention.
"In the last leadership race, David Orchard came in second and
shocked the bejesus out of a lot of people in our party. Right now,
David Orchard has a national organization of latent members. These
are people who aren't members right now, but at the drop of a hat,
would become members," he said, citing supporters of the Council
of Canadians and the Sierra Club as examples. Spokespersons for
both groups say they don't support political parties, but John Bennett
of the Sierra Club did say Mr. Orchard's policies mesh with those
of his organization.
"When he ran for the leadership a few years back, he did support
a number of issues that we would have been in agreement with," he
said. "We have lots of members and every member is an individual."
Some Tory insiders say Mr. Brison's comments are a desperate attempt
by the pro-Clark team to dissuade delegates from voting against
the leader, but Mr. Brison said the theory is his own.
"Do the math and look at what happened last time," he said. "We've
got to give our collective heads a shake and realize that this is
not a far-fetched notion at all and it's certainly not a scare tactic.
It's a combination of the disciplines of arithmetic and political
organization and David Orchard has a well-financed network of activists,
many of whom are single-issue... [and] can be mobilized very, very
quickly. He demonstrated his ability to do that last time. He would
have an even easier time to do it now," he said.
Mr. Orchard has a campaign-style Web site titled "David Orchard
Campaign for Canada" that criticizes the Canada-U.S. free-trade
agreement. he is also an organic farmer who promotes environmental
issues and opposes genetically modified foods.
"He and I are on polar opposites on some pretty fundamental issues
involving economic policy," Mr. Brison said.
But Mr. Orchard said he's not an extremist.
"I think only a moderate, mainstream party will each the hearts
and minds of Canadians," he said, adding that he's supporting Mr.
Clark because "I don't see a great appetite in the mainstream of
the party to push people out."
As for whether he will run for the leadership again when Mr. Clark
is gone, he said: "That's purely a hypothetical question."
Tories are asking themselves why Mr. Orchard has decided to support
Mr. Clark during the leadership review vote at the Tory convention
in Edmonton, Aug. 22-25.
Ariane Eckardt, the Tory riding president for Burnaby-Douglas,
B.C., said she suspects Mr. Orchard is hoping the party will continue
to weaken under Mr. Clark and will be easier to take over at a later
date. "If Mr. Orchard wants to take over the PC Party, surely the
time is now," she said. Ms. Eckardt disagrees with Mr. Orchard's
policies, and has been getting delegates elected to the convention
to sign a letter asking Mr. Clark to resign before Aug. 22.
Ms. Eckardt says a group of like minded organizers plans to present
the letter and signatures to the leader this week. Those involved
with the letter say the vote will be close, but Mr. Clark will still
likely win because of support from Mr. Orchard's organization, who
they estimate will make up almost a quarter of the 1,300 delegates.
"Without Orchard, Clark's toast," said another Tory involved with
Eric Ferguson, the president of the Tory riding association of
Fredericton, N.B. who was an MP during Mr. Clark's short-lived government
from 1979 to 1980, predicted 75% of delegates from his province
will be voting against Mr. Clark. He also dismissed Mr. Brison's
warnings about Mr. Orchard, pointing out that when the leadership
of the New Brunswick Tory party opened up a few years ago, many
strong candidates came out of the woodwork.
"We'd never heard tell of Bernard Lord before then," he said.