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The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) and Regina Leader-Post, Thursday, May 22, 2008

Orchard to seek Grit nomination

By James Wood

A bruising battle that split the federal Liberal party in northern Saskatchewan earlier this year hasn't deterred David Orchard from throwing his hat in the ring again.

The longtime anti-free trade activist who twice vied for the leadership of the old federal Progressive Conservative party said Wednesday he would again seek the Liberal nomination in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River.

Orchard had sought the party's nod for the byelection held in March in the sprawling northern riding but was sideswiped when Liberal Leader Stephane Dion appointed former NDP cabinet minister Joan Beatty, who ultimately lost to Conservative Rob Clarke.

"When I made that decision to join the Liberals I did so in a serious way. There are good times and there are bad times. I'm a farmer, you have good years, you have bad years, but you won't get too far if you don't stick with things so that's what I've done," Orchard said in an interview.

Beatty's appointment infuriated some northern Liberals who backed Orchard and led to the formation of a rival riding association. Some observers believe the infighting aided the defeat of the Liberals, who had narrowly won the riding with Gary Merasty in the 2006 federal election.

Orchard, who was a key Saskatchewan supporter of Dion in the 2006 Liberal leadership race, said he had not discussed running again with Dion directly but had talked it over with people in the leader's office and other members of the party hierarchy.

"I've been assured at the various different levels that this is going to be an open nomination process so I was again very much encouraged to put my name forward," Orchard said.
Dion was not available for comment Wednesday.

Senator David Smith, national co-chair of the Liberal campaign, said unusual circumstances, such as the timing of the byelection, led to Beatty's appointment and normal nominating procedures would be followed this time.

"We wouldn't play favourites. It's a level playing field from our perspective," he said from Toronto.

"What's that old song . . . accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, so let's move on. What happened happened."

Beatty indicated after her loss she would seek the nomination again. John Dorion, who had planned to contest the nomination earlier this year, is another prospective candidate. Nomination meetings are expected to be held in June.

Clarke beat Beatty by 1,700 votes, but Liberals expressed confidence they can still be competitive in the seat.

Saskatchewan Liberal Association executive director Robert Ermel said the party still held the lead in areas where it has been traditionally strong, but poor turnout hurt the party.

jwood@sp.canwest.com


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