The Globe and Mail, December 19, 2007
Dion draws ire over proposed by-election candidate
OTTAWA – Stéphane Dion's hope of appointing a
provincial NDP politician as the Liberal candidate for
an expected federal by-election in Saskatchewan is
angering supporters of one of his key leadership
organizers, David Orchard.
The battle over who will carry the Liberal banner in
a vast northern Saskatchewan riding has developed into a
power struggle pitting MP Ralph Goodale, the party's
strong man in the province, against Mr. Orchard, the
prominent farm activist who twice ran for the leadership
of the Progressive Conservatives.
Mr. Orchard has been campaigning heavily for the
Liberal nomination in the riding of
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, but Mr. Dion is
seriously considering overriding the nomination race to
appoint NDP MLA Joan Beatty as the candidate, Liberal
However, Ms. Beatty said yesterday that she has not
decided whether she will run in the by-election, and
even if she does, she hasn't yet chosen between the
Liberals and the NDP.
"I've been approached to run federally for the
northern riding by both the Liberals and the NDP. I have
some decisions I have to make," she said in a telephone
Ms. Beatty, who was culture minister in the NDP
government that lost office in the November election, is
an aboriginal woman from the vast riding, which covers
the northern half of Saskatchewan. And Mr. Dion has
committed to fielding a slate of candidates that is at
least one-third women.
In addition, Mr. Goodale, the Liberal House Leader
and Saskatchewan party chieftain, has vociferously
opposed Mr. Orchard's candidacy and pushed for another
candidate to be appointed, according to several Liberals
familiar with the discussions.
Some say Mr. Goodale's free-market policy leanings
clash with the reputation of Mr. Orchard, who campaigned
against free trade with the U.S. But other Liberals
believe that Mr. Goodale does not want to see Mr.
Orchard, who commands a sizable grassroots organization,
become a force in Saskatchewan Liberal politics.
Mr. Goodale declined to comment, but a spokesman,
Patrick McQuilken, said that Mr. Goodale will support
whoever becomes the Liberal candidate in the riding.
Although he is often seen as a political oddball, Mr.
Orchard has a network that made him a top-three finisher
in two Progressive Conservative leadership campaigns -
and king maker in 2003, when Peter MacKay signed a deal
with Mr. Orchard pledging no merger with the Canadian
For Mr. Dion, appointing Ms. Beatty would mean
brushing aside a key powerbroker in his leadership
Mr. Dion's Saskatchewan leadership campaign was
essentially the Orchard machine, and Mr. Orchard's
organization also delivered delegates in rural Ontario
and Alberta, as well as raising funds for the cash-poor
campaign. That played a key role in placing Mr. Dion
within striking distance on the first ballot at last
December's Liberal leadership convention.
Mr. Orchard's senior organizers say they refuse to
believe that Mr. Dion will appoint a candidate.
"It would be a colossal mistake on so many different
levels," said Marjaleena Repo, an organizer for Mr.
Orchard who also served as Saskatchewan co-chair for Mr.
Dion's leadership campaign. "It would be very, very
"I would be anti-democratic and against every
understanding and agreement - being asked to run there,
and encouraged to run, and doing his damnedest to do a
good job, and then somebody appointed over him? It would
be just insane."