November 28, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 51  

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Orchard goes to court

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

Former federal Progressive Conservative Party leadership contender David Orchard is launching a lawsuit to fight the expected merger between the PCs and the Canadian Alliance, a move Orchard claims is against the party’s constitution.

“Usually going to the courts is a very slow and expensive proposition,” said Sid Noel, professor of political science at King’s College, adding a written promise between Orchard and Conservative leader Peter MacKay to not merge the two parties was broken by MacKay.

According to Noel, the lawsuit will probably have little effect on the process because the courts tend to be extremely slow. Since the vote and merger could have already taken place, there is a chance the lawsuit could work, he explained. “It has the potential to throw a spanner in all of the works.”

Former Western law professor Ken Alexander stated that Orchard feels the merger will wipe out the party’s existence, while MacKay maintains that only the party constitution will be changed, which requires a two-thirds party majority vote.

“There’s enough weasel-room on the phraseology [in the party constitution],” Alexander added, citing the judge ruling on the case will also realize the importance of the issue. He explained the party’s constitution is very specific, however the courts are not operating within a vacuum and will look outside the constitution when reached a decision. “Common sense is a consideration.”
“I think they’d come down on [MacKay’s] side — they’ll probably agree on the two-thirds,” Alexander said. “But courts don’t like wading into a political issue.”

“I can’t believe MacKay has done what he has done,” said Jacquetta Newman, an associate professor of political science at King’s, adding if MacKay waited several years, the Conservatives could have gained a lot of ground because many Canadians would feel unsatisfied with Paul Martin’s government and vote PC.

According to Newman, MacKay has lost considerable credibility within Conservative ranks over his move to merge the two parties and cannot hope to also be leader of the new party. “You couldn’t trust him as far as you can throw him.”

Newman said she sees the lawsuit as a delaying action and as a method to keep public attention on the whole issue.



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