Dion has already learned more than MacKay did

The CBC is reporting that Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has vowed to undo any changes the Conservatives impose on the Saskatchewan Wheat Board.  In addition to being a good policy, this tactic also has the virtue of pleasing one of the two men without whom Dion could not have ascended to the Liberal leadership:  David Orchard.

I’ve had lunch with David Orchard on several occasions and I can tell you that he is not to be underestimated.  Orchard did not endorse Dion for leader until after the deadline for signing up members had already passed, but even with than hindrance, Orchard was able to deliver much to Dion.  Orchard was able to mobilize his massive organization so effectively that on the convention floor in Montreal, Orchard actually had 150 deligates in his pocket – which is about as many deligates as Volpe had, and more deligates than Martha Hall Findlay had and those two were able to actually sign up members to vote for them.  Orchard basically sent some e-mails out and I got a phone call from his brother Grant and with that relatively small effort, he made himself one of the most important players in the election of Dion as leader.

So, what does this have to do with the Saskatchewan Wheat Board?  Orchard, a Saskatchewan farmer and a strident supporter of the Board, would not tolerate the mortal weakening of this collective bargaining tool.  Now Dion could have ignored the issue as he’s shown little interest at all in the Board up until now, but maybe this shows that Dion has already decided to learn from the mistakes of Peter MacKay who, as leader of the PC Party, underestimated Orchard and earned for himself an eternal gadfly as a reminder of a betrayal which just will not go away. 

Keeping Orchard happy may just be one of the smartest things Dion has done since being elected leader.  Now, this doesn’t mean that Dion will be a good leader, however it does demonstrate that there may be some truth in John Stuart Mill’s statement that “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

3 Responses to “Dion has already learned more than MacKay did”


  1. 1 Charlie Barnard 22 December, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    That’s the best quote I’ve ever heard.

  2. 2 Prairie Boy 22 December, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    David Orchard is well organized but he absoutely does not represent the average view of the Saskatchewan farmer. Just look at how successful Orchard was an a PC canadidate in 2000 to see how useful Orchard is.

  3. 3 paulitics 22 December, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    Prairie Boy – I don’t believe I ever contended that David Orchard is in any way “average”. In fact I think a strong argument can be made that he is anything but average. That said, I don’t understand why you believe that there must be a connection between being average and being ‘useful’.

    As for your contention that Orchard’s success (or rather lack thereof) in the 2000 election is somehow symbolic of his utility, I also would tend to disagree. There is polling data stretching back more than 15 years which demonstrates that the local candidate generally influences voter intention by only 10-15%. So, since the PC Party was pretty much dead in Saskatchewan in 2000, I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that Orchard is useless merely because he wasn’t able to completely shatter this quintessential Canadian political reality.

    Instead, I think there are far better measures of success:

    For instance:

    1) his insurgent leadership bids which were opposed by virtually all of the party’s elite, yet were hugely successful.

    2) his current network of supporters (and, more importantly, his ability to communicate with them readily) which numbers in the tens of thousands

    3) the fact that, although he failed to win election in 2000, he still earned more votes than any other PC candidate in Saskatchewan in 2000.


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