The StarPhoenix, Friday, February 22, 2008
Dion, Beatty tour northern riding
No apology offered for appointing candidate
by Darren Bernhardt
PRINCE ALBERT -- Liberal Leader Stephane Dion was in
Saskatchewan Thursday to drum up party support, but he
was won over instead.
He flew north to tour Sturgeon Lake First Nation,
part of the riding for the upcoming March 17 federal
byelection in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River. While
driving up from Prince Albert, Dion had his first
experience with free-roaming northern plains bison and
couldn't help but share his glee with reporters.
"I never saw anything so big. I was very impressed,"
he said, following an afternoon meeting with the Prince
Albert Grand Council and community leaders.
Dion made the trip with Joan Beatty, the former
provincial NDP cabinet minister who he appointed in
early January as the Liberal candidate for the
That decision has rankled many party members, who
held a protest meeting in Prince Albert on Jan. 12 to
decide how to reclaim their right to choose a candidate.
They blamed Ralph Goodale, the Regina-Wascana Liberal MP
and former federal finance minister, accusing him of
courting Beatty and influencing Dion's decision.
The group has since splintered off, forming its own
executive committee and campaigning for Dion to rescind
the appointment and set a voting date for party members
to select a candidate. Beatty is welcome to run, and is
even supported by several of the protesting members who
say they simply want the process done democratically.
Appointing a candidate is paternalistic and
colonialist, group members, many of whom are aboriginal,
On Thursday, Goodale and Beatty flanked Dion as he
spoke about the situation but made no apologies for his
"When you have the opportunity to have someone so
experienced (run for the party) you don't pass up that
opportunity," Dion said, praising Beatty's knowledge of
the issues in northern Saskatchewan and her popularity.
"She is welcomed everywhere."
Dion dismissed suggestions made by some of those
opposed to the appointment that it will hurt the party's
chances, considering the riding was last won by Liberal
Gary Merasty by just 67 votes.
Two would-be candidates, John Dorion and David
Orchard, were campaigning in anticipation of the Liberal
nomination long before Beatty came along. Orchard has
commended the splinter group for "taking the steps to
reinstate democracy." Dorion, who spoke at the Jan. 12
gathering to oppose Dion's decision, has since jumped
"I am supporting our leader's decision," he said at
the January meeting. "All these meetings and fighting in
the public are not the right way to go."
Orchard, who backed Dion in the 2006 Liberal
leadership race, was not in Prince Albert to greet the
Liberal leader on Thursday. Dion said he would have
liked if that had happened.
"David is a friend of mine. I wish he were here today
to fight for Joan, for the party and for Canada," Dion
said. "We need the help of everyone."
Some supporters of Beatty stood by with buttons
bearing her name pinned on their lapels. Beatty said she
was thankful Dion took the time to see a small part of
the province but hoped he could have seen more.
"I wished he'd have went farther north. I wanted him
to see the housing conditions and lack of roads in those
communities because that's why I'm doing this (running
as a federal candidate)," she said, as Dion's handlers
urged her to keep up with the convoy, which was
preparing to head to Regina for a party fundraising
Dion's next stop will be in Winnipeg today.