National Post, Friday, May 23, 2008
David Orchard sets out to save Canada. Again.
By Kelly McParland
If you're ever on one of those TV reality shows in
which success depends on the determination to persevere
in the face of betrayals, setbacks, failures, dirty
tricks and the unreliability of others, the guy you
want on your side is David Orchard.
The Saskatchewan farmer -- who can't possibly have
much time for farming with all his other activities --
never gives up. Ever. He has been cheated by one party,
ejected from a second and blindsided by a third, yet
continues to beaver away on the various causes he holds
dear, ignoring the overwhelming evidence that Canadian
politics just isn't set up to accommodate somebody like
Mr. Orchard's latest venture is to seek the Liberal
nomination in the riding of
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. If you think you've
heard this before, it's because you have. Mr. Orchard
campaigned to run as the Liberal candidate in the March
17 byelection in the same riding, only to get the back
of the hand from Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and
Saskatchewan Liberal heavyweight Ralph Goodale. Mr. Dion
thought Mr. Orchard was the greatest guy on earth when
Mr. Orchard pledged his support during Mr. Dion's bid
for the party leadership. There weren't a lot of people
crowding onto the Dion bandwagon at the time, so Mr.
Orchard's arrival was more than welcome. But when
byelection time rolled around Mr. Dion decided he needed
a female candidate for the riding and handpicked Joan
Beatty, even though Mr. Orchard had already started
campaigning. Liberal headquarters ignored his entreaties
for a vote on the issue, or his claims he'd been
promised a fair fight. So much for Mr. Dion's fealty.
Ms. Beatty promptly lost the riding to the Tories,
opening the door for Mr. Orchard's second try at the
"Following an extensive period of consultation across
the riding, I have decided to put my name forward as a
candidate for the Liberal Party nomination in the
northern Saskatchewan riding of
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River," he said in
announcing his renewed candidacy on Wednesday. "As part
of the Liberal team, I will offer my energy and
experience to work for an alternative vision for the
riding and the country to that put forward by Stephen
Liberal team? You have to wonder what happened to the
Liberals' team spirit when half the party's front bench
turned up in Saskatchewan to endorse Ms. Beatty,
treating Mr. Orchard like two parts fertilizer and one
part dog poop. Mr. Orchard doesn't let minor matters
like that bother him, though. He has the successful
politician's innate ability to ignore facts that might
prove inconvenient to their ambitions. Has Hillary
Clinton been beaten three ways from Sunday by Barack
Obama? You bet. Outside farce or tragedy, has she got
the remotest chance of overtaking him and seizing the
Democratic nomination? Nope. Will she let that stop her
from relentlessly pursuing her goal, even if it weakens
the party and lessens its chances of eventual victory?
Not a chance. Mr. Orchard knows how she feels.
Asked about his odds of success this time around, Mr.
Orchard is sanguine. He isn't counting on the party
marshalling its resources in a mass push to win him the
nomination, but he does hope for "fair play from the
party leadership." He doesn't think Mr. Dion is foolish,
or devious, enough to pull the same stunt, parachuting
in another candidate more pleasing to party HQ than to
"I think everybody involved believes that the riding
is entitled to a democratic nomination process. Anything
else at this point would, I expect, be highly
counterproductive," he says.
He's not daunted by the make-up of the riding, which
has one of the biggest aboriginal populations in the
country. The three largest parties all ran native
candidates in the by-election.
"The riding has had both aboriginal and
non-aboriginal MPs over the years, representing both
populations, which are roughly equal size in voting
numbers," he notes. "I hope to bridge the gap between
the various constituents."
The biggest question is why he would want to subject
himself once again to federal politics. Mr. Orchard was
lied to when he ran for the leadership of the
Progressive-Conservative Party; fought in vain to stop
it being absorbed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives; was
heaved out of that party as a result and has hardly been
treated kindly by his new pals in the Liberals. Why
subject himself to more of the same?
His response is succinct: "For the people in the
riding who have a mountain of issues to contend with; to
help rid the country of Stephen Harper's government."
And because he never quits. Ever.