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The Prince Albert Daily Herald, Friday, February 22, 2008

Dion sticks with his choice

by Tara Campbell

Stephane Dion continues to defend the controversial appointment of Joan Beatty as the Liberal candidate for the upcoming byelection in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River.

"With Joan Beatty we will be better equipped in Northern Saskatchewan - she has great experience," said Dion, addressing the media on Thursday afternoon. "I'm optimistic that in the end on March 17 we will have Joan Beatty for the north of Saskatchewan and for all of Canada."

Dion was in Prince Albert on Thursday, along with Beatty, to meet with community leaders and First Nations chiefs in preparation for the byelection next month.

"It has been an honour for me to meet with mayors, chiefs and grand chiefs," said Dion.

Earlier in the day, Dion and Beatty travelled to Sturgeon Lake in effort to energize and unite Liberal Party members, some of who have said they will not vote Liberal in the March 17 byelection if Beatty, a former NDP cabinet member, is on the ballot.

Dion has been criticized by some members of his party since hand-picking Beatty. John Dorion and David Orchard had been running for the candidacy when Dion stepped in and named Beatty as the official Liberal candidate in early January.

Dion said Orchard is a friend and wished that Orchard had been with him to show support for Beatty.

Marcel Head, chief of the Shoal Lake First Nation, has been leading the way among disgruntled Liberals and said many of the people he knows will not be voting Liberal.

"They might be voting, but not Liberal," said Head.

Beatty, however, said the focus should not be on the candidate, but on the issues.

"At the end of the day it's not about the candidate," said Beatty. "It is about solving the many problems in our communities."

Dion is convinced that appointing Beatty was the right move and that she will be accepted.

"I think she is welcome everywhere. When you have the opportunity to have such an exceptional individual willing to join your political family to help her community you don't miss that opportunity."

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