The StarPhoenix, Friday, January 11, 2008
His side of the story
Orchard claims Dion made him assurances
by Janet French
David Orchard says he was told by federal party
leader Stephane Dion and other senior Liberals that Dion
would not hand-pick a candidate to run in a March 17
federal byelection in northern Saskatchewan.
Orchard, who began campaigning for the Liberal
nomination in the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River
riding three months ago, said there's no truth to the
party's assertions he knew it wanted an aboriginal woman
to run in the sprawling northern riding.
"Mr. (Ralph) Goodale never breathed a word to me of
any appointment," Orchard said, referring to comments by
the Regina Liberal MP.
"In fact, I was assured there would be no
appointment," Orchard said.
Asked who told him there would be no appointment,
Orchard repeated that Goodale never said anything about
it, and he was also assured by a national Liberal
"Of course, the leader told me there would be no
appointment," Orchard added.
Last week, Dion appointed NDP MLA and former
provincial cabinet minister Joan Beatty to represent the
Liberals in the byelection. Orchard was a vocal Dion
supporter during the Liberal leadership race.
A spokesperson for the federal Liberals says Orchard
should have known better. The party's constitution, and
a declaration form candidates sign, state the leader has
the right to appoint another candidate in an election,
Liberal spokesperson Elizabeth Whiting said.
Orchard said he has "never quibbled" with the
leader's right to appoint candidates.
"There's probably a place for appointments, at the
beginning, maybe, of the process, before people have
been asked to run and have been campaigning for three
months," Orchard said. "In this case, I worked hard to
win the riding."
On Thursday, Orchard was returning from a dinner with
Dion in Ottawa, at which he asked the leader to attend a
meeting in Prince Albert on Saturday of aboriginal
chiefs and Liberal members upset with Beatty's
At the meeting, the disgruntled members will
establish a riding association executive and set a date
to appoint a Liberal candidate for the
Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding, he said.
Whiting said that's not possible -- the Liberals
already have a riding association executive and a
candidate chosen, she said.
"It's not a Liberal Party of Canada event," she said.
Dion won't be there, she added.
The party wants to keep Orchard on as a candidate in
another riding, Whiting said.
"Mr. Dion has repeated several times, including as
recently as this morning, that he has a lot of respect
and high regard for Mr. Orchard and he hopes he will
continue to play a role in the Liberal party," she said
Orchard said the current riding association is not
"This is an effort to rebuild the Liberal party," he
said. "This is a constituency association that's
moribund, that does not exist. This is an effort to
reconstitute a constituency association."
Orchard revealed little about his meeting with Dion,
other than the menu.
"There was a lovely meal," he said. "The entree was
crab. The main course was lamb. There was a beautiful
dessert of bananas and blueberries, and we had a chance
He was equally taciturn about his future with the
Liberals. When asked what his next political move was,
Orchard repeatedly said, "out to his car and (to) go
Meanwhile, John Dorion, who was also vying for the
Liberal nomination in the northern riding, says he would
likely have been the candidate elected, not Orchard, if
the riding's regular nomination process had gone ahead.
In a media release Thursday, Doiron said the riding
association had just 10 members when he entered the
race. By the time Orchard declared his candidacy, Dorion
had signed up another 200 members, and has sold more
since then, he said. As of Jan. 3, the association had
566 members, he says.
"I believe the press is overplaying the support
Orchard has in northern Saskatchewan," Dorion said.
Once a Progressive Conservative, anti-free trade
activist Orchard left that party after a failed
leadership bid in 2003. During the January 2006 federal
election, the Borden-area farmer announced his new
relationship with the Liberals while throwing his
support behind Saskatoon-Wanuskewin Liberal candidate
The seat in the northern riding became vacant when
Liberal MP Gary Merasty resigned in September. He had
squeaked past incumbent Conservative MP Jeremy Harrison
by just 67 votes in the 2006 federal election.