The StarPhoenix, Thursday, August 07, 2008
Orchard must reconcile position
By Randy Burton
The nomination battle now unfolding in the sprawling
northern riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River
is about more than just choosing the Liberal party's
candidate for the next federal election.
It's also about who calls the shots amongst
Saskatchewan Liberals and a measure of just how far the
party's "big tent" can stretch.
On the first question, there is no doubt federal MP
Ralph Goodale is the single most influential Liberal in
the province. Few significant decisions are made without
his involvement and approval. Goodale is a big part of
the reason leader Stephane Dion chose to appoint Joan
Beatty as the party's candidate in its failed attempt to
hang on to the riding in a March byelection.
That decision was seen as an effort to prevent David
Orchard from becoming a Liberal candidate and possibly
an MP, where his outspoken opinions could cause problems
Beatty's loss destroyed that strategy and
strengthened the hand of those Liberals who argue that
whatever Orchard's negatives might be, he also brings
some important attributes to the party.
Chief among these is his huge network of supporters.
Just as he was instrumental in the election of Dion as
party leader, he could potentially affect the outcome in
a number of ridings across the country.
This time the party has opted to give democracy a
chance, which means party members have the choice to
vote for either Beatty or Orchard on Aug. 14. There is
still an outstanding question of whether the party is
trying to make it difficult for Orchard by its selection
of the locations for polling stations, but at least the
candidate is not hand-picked this time.
This raises the question of where Orchard stands on
issues critical to the riding, such as the future of the
Among the myriad of other topics that Orchard holds
unwavering opinions on, he has been strongly opposed to
any suggestion that Saskatchewan should ever be
considered as a site for the long-term storage of
He has spelled this out on several occasions,
including during hearings into waste storage conducted
by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency back in
Appearing before a panel examining the topic at the
time, Orchard painted a scenario in which Canada could
wind up as a nuclear dump site for the entire world. The
only answer to the waste problem is to stop producing
nuclear power throughout Canada, Orchard said at the
"You have to shut down those reactors that are
producing this waste every day. They have got to stop
producing more of it. We have lots of power in Canada.
We have no need for nuclear power at all in this
country; we have got ample other ways of creating power.
Canada is not a little, tiny country that has no
resources. Even if some countries do need reactors, we
don't need them at all."
As a statement from an anti-nuclear activist, there
is nothing too surprising about it. But it would be a
different story if this argument were to come from a
Liberal MP, particularly one who is supposed to be close
to the federal leader.
Would Orchard carry this message into the federal
Liberal caucus, or perhaps even Dion's cabinet? Such a
prospect would not only send shivers down the spine of
the Ontario nuclear industry, but it would also raise
eyebrows in Saskatchewan.
Our provincial government is now actively
investigating nuclear power for Saskatchewan, not to
mention other uranium processing opportunities, all of
which are federally licensed and regulated. Would
Orchard seek to derail that activity?
Perhaps more significantly, if nuclear power is a
blight on the planet, then what of uranium mining? The
federal riding Orchard seeks to represent produces 22
per cent of the world's uranium, and fuels the industry
he would like to shutter. No one in northern
Saskatchewan needs to be reminded that the uranium
industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year
to the province, including $58 million a year in
northern salaries alone.
Having a federal MP advocating the end of nuclear
power in Canada could hardly be good for those
communities that depend on mining.
Orchard is busy campaigning in the Far North this
week and could not be reached to discuss his current
views on these issues, but his record to date suggests
he's no friend to the uranium industry.
A man can always change his mind, of course, and, in
fact, Orchard's views on free trade have mellowed
somewhat. Perhaps the same thing has happened with his
thinking on the nuclear issue.
If so, it would be nice for the voters to hear that
before he becomes the Liberal candidate for the only
uranium-producing region in the country.