The StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post, Saturday, January 05, 2008
Appointment exemplifies bad politics
by Murray Mandryk
To be kind, Joan Beatty's tenure as a member of
premier Lorne Calvert's NDP cabinet was rather
So why is she suddenly the hottest commodity in
Saskatchewan politics, pursued by both the federal NDP
and Liberals to be their candidate in the March 17
Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River byelection? Is she
so valuable that federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion
legitimately can justify forgoing the usual nomination
process to appoint her as his candidate?
And after all outrage the federal Liberals and Dion
expressed over their former caucus mate David Emerson
abandoning the Grit ship to join Stephen Harper's
Conservative government, how do they justify plucking
Beatty from the ranks of the Saskatchewan NDP after she
was re-elected as an MLA less than two months ago?
Well, there are those (read: Diehard Liberals) who
may try to convince you that they really don't need to
answer any of the above. After all, Beatty's a
northerner, a New Democrat to whom Liberals are reaching
out, a First Nations person and a woman. Why wouldn't
Dion and the Liberals court her?
Admittedly, it's an appointment that, in this world
of political correctness, isn't easy to criticize.
Beatty unquestionably is a popular MLA for her
northern riding of Cumberland, who could well win the
seat for the Liberals. And it is important not only to
have minorities in the Commons but even more important
to have candidates who actually reflect the makeup of a
riding such as this Northern Saskatchewan constituency,
where a majority of voters are First Nation or Metis.
But under the best of circumstances, it's still
legitimate to question the bypassing of the nomination
process to appoint a candidate. And despite the shroud
of political correctness that surrounds Dion's
appointment of Beatty, this simply isn't the best of
For one thing, a leader is always playing with fire
when he anoints a politician from another party, and
it's especially dangerous when he appoints someone
already sitting in an assembly as a representative of
another political party.
While political correctness will prevent Opposition
Leader Calvert and other New Democrats from publicly
saying what they would otherwise, no party despises
turncoats more than the NDP does. Despite their silence,
New Democrats will do everything in their power to
defeat Beatty, especially since her departure less than
two months after being re-elected as a New Democrat is a
huge political embarrassment for them.
For another thing, such appointments only work when
the candidate being appointed is seen as qualified,
talented and experienced enough to offset some of the
obvious criticism. Again, political correctness means
you won't hear this very much, but it's not all that
difficult to find people who view Beatty as a major
talent downgrade from the departed Liberal MP Gary
Merasty, who was a legitimate First Nations leader long
before his entry into mainstream politics. Some even
contend that such a downgrade does little to advance the
cause of First Nations people in the long run.
But it's why Merasty is leaving and the games being
played to stop others from replacing him -- issues
actually far removed from Beatty -- that really
punctuate what's wrong with this appointment process.
A Michael Ignatieff backer, Merasty's options for
advancement in the Liberal party became significantly
limited a year ago, when Dion became party leader. So,
instead of having a respected First Nations leader who
could have clearly stepped into a federal Liberal
cabinet, Dion found himself minus one MP.
However, eager to step into void was one-time
Conservative leadership hopeful and long-time political
gadfly David Orchard, who happened to back Dion's
leadership bid. Suffice to say, Orchard's candidacy for
the northern federal riding didn't go over big with a
long-time Saskatchewan Liberals, among them kingpin
The solution? To appoint a sitting NDP MLA and First
Nations woman as the Liberal candidate in the seat.
At best, it appears Beatty got this appointment for
the wrong reasons. At worst, it provides a lot of
examples of a lot of things wrong in politics.