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The StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post, Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dion to rally support in controversial riding

By James Wood, TheStarPhoenix.com

REGINA - Liberal Leader Stephane Dion will be in Saskatchewan on Thursday to drum up votes and cash for his party.

Dion will be in Wollaston Lake Thursday morning with Joan Beatty, the former provincial NDP cabinet minister appointed as the Liberal candidate in the March 17 Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River byelection.

In the afternoon he and Beatty will join Liberal MP Ralph Goodale in Prince Albert to meet with Prince Albert Grand Council and community leaders.

"The reason that we go out is to show support and to rally some support for the candidate," said Dion spokesperson Sarah Bain in a telephone interview.

The day's events will be followed by a party fundraising dinner in Regina.

Bain said Dion also expects to hear from Liberal members on whether the party should bring down the minority Conservative government and force a spring election.

One item that won't be on the agenda, however, is a reconciliation with one of Dion's most prominent former supporters in Saskatchewan.

David Orchard had been seeking the Liberal nomination in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, only to see Dion appoint Beatty. The move set off a furor among some Liberal supporters in the sprawling northern riding.

No meeting is planned between Dion and Orchard, the anti-free trade activist who backed Dion in the 2006 Liberal leadership race.

"Nothing has changed. The situation is pretty fixed with the appointment," said Orchard spokesperson Marjaleena Repo.

"There's no alternative. Nothing has been offered, you know, even to be considered. So it is the status quo. The status quo prevails."

Repo said Orchard won't run as independent or seek the Green Party nomination in the northern riding. He is also not planning at this point on running in another riding as a Liberal in a general election, she said.

The northern riding was vacated last September by the resignation of Liberal MP Gary Merasty.

The Conservative candidate is RCMP officer Rob Clarke, while the NDP recently nominated fire protection officer Brian Morin.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Prince Albert in January.

jwood@sp.canwest.com


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