Liberal Party members gather to protest Beatty appointment
By Darren Bernhardt, TheStarPhoenix.com
PRINCE ALBERT - Ralph Goodale may be one of the most
respected politicians in Ottawa, but in his home
province and to several members of his Liberal Party on
Saturday, he was about as popular as a kick in the
As a matter of fact, the latter was more popular: it
was mentioned more than once as a gift that should be
bestowed on Goodale, the Regina-Wascana MP and former
minister of finance for Canada.
A fired-up group of nearly 200 people - mayors,
residents, First Nations chiefs, Metis leaders -
gathered at the Prince Albert Inn throughout the day for
an emergency membership meeting regarding the recent
upheaval in the federal riding of
Desnethe-Missinippi-Chruchill River. Last week, Liberal
Party leader Stephane Dion appointed provincial NDP
defector Joan Beatty as candidate for a March 17
byelection in the riding. Goodale has been accused by
critics of the appointment of courting and recommending
Beatty, the first aboriginal woman appointed to
By foisting a candidate upon them, the Liberal Party
has insulted northern Saskatchewan voters, said Jim
Durocher, a former federal and provincial Liberal
candidate and past-president of the Metis Association of
Saskatchewan. At the meeting, the federal Liberal Party
was called paternalistic, colonialist, dictators and, as
one member stated, "other words we can't say in public."
"It's back to the old Indian Affairs system: 'We know
what's good for you,' " said Chief Richard Fiddler of
Waterhen First Nation.
"The north has been for decades on the receiving end
of colonial attitudes and unforgivable arrogance," said
Durocher, who emceed the meeting with Chief Marcel Head
of Shoal Lake First Nation. "Some people are talking
about going to Regina to visit Ralph Goodale and kick
him in the . . . somewhere."
"Don't kick him in the nuts, he doesn't have any,"
someone offered, to which another attendee suggested
Goodale be taken behind a woodshed and given a drubbing.
The room at the Inn was so full that organizers
delayed the start of the meeting to push back partition
walls and spread the gathering across three banquet
"Isn't it amazing, the other day when Bob Rae and
Goodale and that hockey player guy (Ken Dryden) said
it's only a handful of people concerned about this.
Well, they had about nine people (at their meeting last
week in La Ronge) and look at us," Durocher said,
igniting a round of applause.
The objective was to set up a riding association
executive and establish a nomination date to
"democratically" elect a Liberal candidate for the
After being advised that advance notice must be given
to members in order to create an executive, the group
formed an interim committee to work toward that goal.
The committee is also tasked with setting a nomination
date and meeting with Beatty to request her resignation
and invite her to be part of the nomination process.
"We have to be fair here," said Durocher. "She may
have been used in this situation by the Liberal Party.
Maybe she never fully understood the seriousness of it."
Eileen Gelowitz of Big River First Nation expressed
her support for Joan but not the appointment.
"If she ran for the nomination, in a democratic
process, I would be the first one out there to support
her," Gelowitz said.
Two candidates, John Dorion and David Orchard, were
campaigning in anticipation of the Liberal nomination
long before Beatty came along. Dion has slapped them in
the face, said Durocher.
"Dion just handed this riding to the conservatives,"
added Fiddler, noting Gary Merasty, the Liberal
incumbent who stepped down in September, forcing the
byelection, won the seat by 67 votes - and that was with
the Liberal supporters going all-out to vote for him.
Circumventing the democratic process has alienated
many of those people, who intend to boycott the
byelection or vote for another party if Beatty is the
candidate, he added.
Several in attendance support David Orchard, who has
stood with First Nations people at blockades to protect
natural resources. Orchard also helped Dion win a hotly
contested leadership convention last fall, which is why
Beatty's appointment has shocked so many. A candidate at
the convention himself, Orchard realized he wasn't going
to win and passed his votes to Dion.
"I'm encouraged by what the people are doing here. I
commend them for taking the steps to reinstate
democracy," he said in an interview at Saturday's
Neither Beatty not anyone from Dion's executive
attended the meeting, though they had been told about
it. But as Durocher repeatedly emphasized, "this meeting
is not about Joan Beatty. This meeting is not about
David Orchard. This meeting is about the process that
was denied our people.
"There's not a lot of places in Canada where our
people have the opportunity for some control. We're not
going to let that go," Durocher added. "The people
sitting in Ottawa need to understand that. The people
sitting in Regina need to know that. Those gurus in
government need to know that."
Then he took another shot at Goodale, adding, "That
chubby little guy in Regina who thinks he knows
everything needs to know that we are going to take
Alex Maurice, mayor of Beauval, said the Beatty
appointment belittles all women, suggesting they can't
beat the men on their own merits.
Goodale has said Beatty's name was put forward by the
so-called Green Light Committee, a group of Liberal
members who help organize the party for upcoming
elections. According to Doug Richardson, a Saskatoon
lawyer and GLC member, every province has one. But he
categorically denied Goodale's claim the Saskatchewan
GLC supported any single candidate.
A high-ranking member of the party who once served as
former Prime Minister John Turner's chief of staff,
Richardson backs Orchard. He told select people so as
they entered the meeting.
The interim committee will also be seeking
representation on the GLC and will be forwarding Dion a
petition passed around Saturday demanding he reverse the