Canadian Press, Thursday, January 10, 2008
Orchard says he was assured Liberal nomination for Sask byelection would be
by Joan Bryden
OTTAWA - David Orchard says he'd never have
campaigned to become a Liberal candidate in Saskatchewan
if he had been told from the outset that Leader Stephane
Dion would appoint a woman.
In his first comments since controversy erupted over
Dion's decision to appoint NDP defector Joan Beatty,
Orchard told The Canadian Press he was assured there
would be an open contest to choose the Liberal candidate
for the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River byelection
on March 17.
Orchard vehemently refuted Liberal House Leader Ralph
Goodale's version of events.
Goodale, the lone Liberal MP from Saskatchewan, said
Wednesday that Orchard and other prospective candidates
knew full well that Dion might appoint a woman. Indeed,
Goodale said all would-be candidates signed a paper
acknowledging that the leader might bypass the
democratic nomination process and make an appointment.
"Mr. Goodale's statement is completely and utterly
false," Orchard said in a brief telephone interview.
"In fact, I was assured that there would be no
appointment whatsoever and urged to work hard for the
"Does anyone believe that I would have campaigned for
three months - I criss-crossed the riding, 20,000
kilometres, signing up hundreds of members - if there'd
been a threat of an appointment over my head?"
And Orchard issued a blunt challenge to Goodale.
"So my answer to Mr. Goodale is this: Produce the
paper about the female candidate or back down."
Orchard, an anti-free trade activist and two-time
contender for the Progressive Conservative leadership,
spoke to The Canadian Press as he awaited a flight back
to Saskatoon. He confirmed that he had been in Ottawa to
meet with Dion.
He declined to say whether he feels disappointed or
betrayed by Dion, for whom he delivered crucial support
during the 2006 Liberal leadership contest. But judging
by the few comments Orchard was prepared to make, the
meeting with Dion did nothing to mollify him.
Orchard's supporters contend Dion would not have been
able to stage a come-from-behind victory in the
leadership race without the 150 delegates Orchard's
organization delivered to the convention.
They compare Dion's treatment of Orchard now to that
of Peter MacKay, who won the 2003 PC leadership after
striking a deal with Orchard. As part of the deal,
MacKay agreed he would not engage in any negotiations to
merge the PC party with the Canadian Alliance, a promise
on which he reneged only a few months later.
Some irate Orchard supporters have predicted the
controversy will cost Liberals the northern Saskatchewan
riding. The party only managed to win Desnethe by 67
votes in the 2006 election but the victor, Gary Merasty,
resigned abruptly last summer.
Some of Orchard's supporters have organized an
emergency meeting on Saturday, at which they intend to
elect a new Liberal executive in the riding and set a
date for a nomination contest - in defiance of Dion's
decision last week to appoint Beatty.
Dion defended his decision Wednesday, noting he has
promised that a third of Liberal candidates will be
women and asserting Beatty, the first aboriginal elected
to the Saskatchewan legislature, is a particularly good
Dion said he has a high regard for Orchard and hopes
he'll serve the party in some other capacity.