Canadian Press, Friday, August 15, 2008
Outspoken activist David Orchard to run for federal Liberals in Saskatchewan
OTTAWA — Once spurned by Liberal Leader Stephane
Dion, outspoken activist David Orchard has now been
embraced by party rank and file in a northern
The organic farmer and anti-free trade activist was
elected late Thursday to be the Liberal candidate in
Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River during the next
Orchard had hoped to run for the Liberals during a
byelection in the predominantly aboriginal riding last
March. But Dion short-circuited the democratic
nomination process, appointing former NDP provincial
cabinet minister Joan Beatty as the party's candidate.
Although Beatty herself is aboriginal, the move
enraged some native leaders. They accused Dion of
paternalism and even racism, imposing Beatty rather than
trusting native residents to choose their own candidate.
Beatty lost the riding, which had narrowly elected a
Liberal in the 2006 election, to the Conservatives. Many
Liberals blamed Dion's heavy-handed treatment of
Orchard, who had been instrumental in securing Dion's
come-from-behind leadership victory, for the loss.
Beatty had wanted to run again in the upcoming
general election but she got no help from Dion, who
chose not to interfere this time in the open nomination
contest. She was trounced by Orchard in Thursday's vote.
An insider said Orchard garnered more than twice as
many votes as Beatty.
Orchard said Friday that the party had no choice but
to "bow to the clearly expressed will of the people in
the north to have democracy and fair play."
"Many of the people from the highest reaches of the
party told me that they felt they'd made a mistake and
they wanted to make it right. If they want to win the
riding, I don't think they could've gone any other way,"
he said in an interview.
Orchard, an organic farmer who twice ran for the
leadership of the now-defunct Progressive Conservatives,
has long been an outspoken activist on environmental,
free-trade, aboriginal and agriculture issues. He
doesn't intend to pull his punches now just because he's
"I think the essence of a vibrant, national party is
you would have to encompass a wide range of views.
Probably one of the worst things (is) a monolithic party
where everybody stands up and nods at the same time and
says the same things," he said.
Moreover, Orchard indicated that he intends to use
his activist zeal to shake up the Liberal party.
"I strongly believe that we have to open up the party
to the ordinary people, the grassroots, and we have to
touch a chord if we're going to be effective as a
In Saskatchewan in particular, Orchard said Liberals
are "going to have to do something very different than
the way it's been done if we're going to get beyond
having a single member from this province."
That may put Orchard at odds with Liberal stalwart
Ralph Goodale, the lone Liberal MP in Saskatchewan who
has presided over party affairs in the province for
decades. Some of Orchard's supporters blamed Goodale for
persuading Dion to appoint Beatty in the byelection.
Goodale had no comment Friday. Dion's office said the
leader had "a nice chat" with Orchard Friday morning and
congratulated him on his nomination victory.