Friday, December 01, 2006

“They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast” . . .

. . . is a lyric from the Eagles’ “Hotel California” that comes to mind whenever I read a story about the erstwhile and unlamented Tory, David Orchard. The Star’s Thomas Walkom has an interesting piece today. Some highlights are below.

What it all suggests – or confirms – is that Orchard is neither a Tory nor a Liberal, but a political parasite, and poor Stéphane Dion is merely his chosen host of the moment. Given Orchard’s careful husbanding of “his” 175 delegates, odds are he will be looking for an opportunity to break away from Dion and deliver them to another candidate, in exchange for deal on some policy issue, perhaps on trade, environment or agriculture (though Orchard's claims of being a farmer are bogus, as the National Post exposed a few years ago). And the media will eat it up.

As much as it would amuse me to see the Liberals struggle to rid themselves of Orchard and his batty Orchardistas, My advice to that candidate is: (1) Just say no. (2) If you can’t say no, don’t put it in writing.

From “David Orchard is in the house – once again” (Toronto Star, today):

Could David Orchard end up deciding who gets to be the next Liberal leader? At first glance, the idea seems bizarre. But the Saskatchewan organic farmer and anti-free trade agitator — who twice came close to capturing the Progressive Conservative crown — has surfaced at the nail-biting Liberal leadership convention at the head of a band of 175 fiercely loyal delegates, most of whom are determined to support whatever candidate he chooses.

Right now, says Orchard, that is Quebec MP Stéphane Dion.

Canada's political elites don't have much time for Orchard. He's a zealot, in an age when zealotry is viewed with suspicion. He's a perennial outsider in a game dominated by those desperate to be inside players.

But to his followers, he is an almost Messianic figure.

Joan Tomblin-Morris, a B.C. physician waiting to be bumped up from alternate to delegate status, says she first encountered Orchard in 1987 when, out of curiosity, she attended one of his meetings on free trade.

. . . like most Orchardites, she's been with him since. In 1998, she followed him into the Tories when he took on Joe Clark for the leadership — and came close to winning. "I didn't really want to be a Conservative," she admits. But she soldiered on, becoming president of her riding association. When Orchard made his second leadership bid in 2003, she followed.

When MacKay reneged, Orchard fought the merger — unsuccessfully — in the courts. Eventually, he and his supporters abandoned the Conservatives. Last January, he quietly joined the Liberals. His followers, as always, followed.

And so the fabled Orchard organization went to work. In mid-August, he announced his support for Dion. By the end of September, Orchardites had captured a solid bloc of Liberal riding associations — mainly in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. — for the Quebec contender.

Their speciality was to focus on ridings with no sitting Liberal MP, where the party organization was thin. So now Team Orchard is in Montreal. They are bunked in at an apartment hotel in a seedier part of town. Each evening, they hold a pep rally.

Orchard is coy about who he would support if Dion is eliminated during the voting tomorrow. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," he said, smiling.

But in an election that promises to be perilously close, his 175 or so delegates could play a significant role.

Orchard already has more committed delegates than last-place contender Martha Hall Findlay. By the time registration closes today, Orchardites here could easily outnumber those committed to other faint-hope candidates such as MPs Scott Brison and Joe Volpe.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

I'm going to have Hotel California stuck in my head for the rest of the day.