The Globe and Mail, Friday, January 11, 2008
Liberals at odds over candidate
Dion is urged to allow open nomination in riding where he picked
by Jane Taber, Senior
political writer; with a report from The Canadian
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's decision to appoint an
aboriginal woman candidate to a northern Saskatchewan
riding is provoking battles both inside and outside the
Internally, the situation is being described as
"ugly" by one senior Liberal, who says there have been
shouting matches among strategists and MPs over the
appointment of former NDP Saskatchewan MLA and cabinet
minister Joan Beatty.
Publicly, aboriginal leaders from
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill, where a by-election will
be held on March 17, are calling on Mr. Dion to overturn
his decision and allow an open nomination.
They have organized an emergency membership meeting
for tomorrow night in Prince Albert, Sask. However, a
Liberal Party spokeswoman said yesterday that Mr. Dion's
decision is "final."
At the centre of this is former Liberal cabinet
minister Ralph Goodale, the only Grit MP from the
province, and David Orchard, Saskatchewan farmer and
anti-free-trade activist, who is credited with helping
Mr. Dion win the 2006 leadership after he delivered more
than 100 delegates. Mr. Orchard had been campaigning for
Some Liberals say, both privately and publicly, that
Mr. Goodale misjudged the situation and persuaded Mr.
Dion to appoint Ms. Beatty, denying Mr. Orchard a seat.
"I will not call Ralph Goodale a liar. I will say
that he has trouble stating the facts of the matter from
time to time," says former Métis leader Jim Durocher.
"He is not telling the leader the facts. The facts of
the matter is that people ... cherish [their democratic
Mr. Goodale is not commenting.
Mr. Orchard said yesterday that he would never have
campaigned if he had known Mr. Dion would appoint a
candidate. Mr. Goodale has said that Mr. Orchard knew
that Mr. Dion might appoint a woman.
"Mr. Goodale's statement is completely and utterly
false," Mr. Orchard said.
Earlier this week, Mr. Orchard met in Ottawa with Mr.
Dion where it was made clear that the leader won't
reverse his decision but wants to give Mr. Orchard a
role, the senior Liberal says.
But his supporters, many of whom are aboriginal
leaders, are not giving up. Mr. Durocher says Liberals
in the riding feel betrayed. He says that this riding is
one thing that aboriginal people in the North can
control. It angers him, he says, that Central Canadians
think they know what works in northern Saskatchewan.
Said Joe Durocher, a businessman and an Orchard
supporter: "I don't know where Stéphane gets his
information from. The only understanding that I had and
that we worked hard toward this end is that it was going
to be a democratic process." Mr. Dion only recently
announced he was appointing Ms. Beatty, who was
re-elected in the Nov. 7 provincial election. Liberal MP
Gary Merasty resigned in the summer.
Some had interpreted Ms. Beatty's decision to run
provincially as a sign that she was not interested in an
appointment. As well, Mr. Dion in October effectively
introduced Mr. Orchard and consultant John Dorion as
contenders for the nomination.