The StarPhoenix, Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Northerners plan protest of Liberal appointment
Disgruntled Liberals in the province's north have
organized a meeting for Saturday to protest federal
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's decision to bypass a
nomination meeting for an upcoming byelection.
Those involved say the issue has united Metis and
First Nations communities in opposition to the
appointment of former NDP provincial cabinet minister
Joan Beatty as the Liberal candidate in the March 17
vote in the riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill
The move has pre-empted a nomination meeting that
would have seen free trade critic David Orchard facing
off against Prince Albert educator John Dorion.
The pair have been campaigning and selling
memberships for several months, only to see their
efforts short-circuited by Dion's decision last week to
This has angered a number of people in the north who
see the move as a paternalistic gesture that discounts
their democratic right to choose.
Sources say Dion's hand was forced by Saskatchewan
Liberal Ralph Goodale, who is dead set against the idea
of having Orchard as a Liberal candidate in a winnable
riding, in spite of the fact Orchard played a key role
in helping Dion win the party's leadership in 2006.
Despite his flair for organization, Orchard is
regarded by some in the Liberal hierarchy as a loose
cannon whose views on any number of issues might cause
problems for the party.
In spite of that, various community and Native
leaders say naming Beatty has badly damaged the
Liberals' chances in the consituency, which the party
won by just 67 votes in the last federal election.
Former Liberal MP Gary Merasty resigned his seat last
year and has since taken an executive position with
In an interview Tuesday, Bruce Morin, chief of the
Big River Band, said he thinks Dion made "a big mistake"
by appointing Beatty.
"He's going to lose a lot of votes over this. He won
the last time with a slim majority of votes thanks to
the efforts of people like us. And now he goes and does
this to us.
"This is an insult to the people who live out here.
This should have been our choice."
Goodale and Liberal campaign co-chair David Smith
have defended the move, saying appointments are
sometimes necessary in order to improve gender balance
Orchard's campaign manager Marjaleena Repo said she
expects Orchard to be in the audience of Saturday's
meeting, but the issue belongs to the people of the
"The issue is even beyond the candidates. I have this
feeling that this is drawing a line in the sand. Or in
the forest," she said.
The meeting will be co-chaired by Metis leader Jimmy
Durocher, who said he expects most northern community
mayors to be in attendance, as well as a number of First
"This is one issue that First Nations and Metis speak
together on, and they're adamant that not using the
democratic process is very offensive to everybody."
Durocher said he also hopes Goodale will be in
attendance, since Dion's office has said the decision
was taken on Goodale's recommendation.
A spokesperson for Goodale said he has not heard
about the gathering and needs more information before
making a commitment.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the
Prince Albert Inn.
Durocher said he expects up to 150 people to attend.