Toronto Star, Saturday, January 05, 2008
Dion accused of snubbing Orchard
Candidate appointment causes controversy
by Susan Delacourt, Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion appears to have
taken a giant political risk in refusing to allow David
Orchard, the farmer and political activist, to run for
the party in the coming federal by-election in
Orchard, who delivered more than 100 delegates to
Dion's leadership campaign a year ago, had his heart set
on running in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River – one
of four ridings where by-elections are to be held on
March 17 to replace departing Liberal MPs.
But on Thursday evening, Dion used his powers of
appointment to hand-select Joan Beatty to run for the
Liberals in the Saskatchewan seat. Beatty is a former
NDP minister in the Saskatchewan government and the
first aboriginal woman to be named to cabinet in that
province. She won her seat in the provincial election
two months ago in which the NDP was defeated.
Orchard wasn't talking to the media yesterday, but
his disgruntled supporters were making clear that they
saw Dion's move as a snub.
Roy Head, of the Red Earth First Nation and a former
riding president in the area, wrote in the Saskatoon
Star-Phoenix that the Beatty appointment was a "slap in
the face" and argued: "We can't let tyranny overstep or
overpower democracy and the freedom to elect our
On the Internet, several Orchard supporters have
floated comparisons between Dion and Peter MacKay, now
defence minister, who famously made a convention-floor
deal with Orchard at the Conservative leadership in 2003
only to renege on the arrangement to pursue the merger
with the Canadian Alliance that same year.
"The scene now unfolding in Liberal circles bears all
the hallmarks of a movie Orchard has seen before," one
Saskatchewan-based blogger posted on his site.
Senator David Smith, one of Dion's election campaign
chairpersons, was trying to calm the waters yesterday,
saying Orchard was still very much welcome to run as a
candidate in the federal election.
Dion, said Smith, was faced with a tough decision. He
is committed to having women running in one-third of the
ridings across Canada and Beatty was such an attractive
prospect for the Liberals, Dion felt he had to put her
in that riding to run as soon as possible.
"I'm not saying anything negative about David
Orchard," Smith said. "I hope he stays in the family."
It is said that former finance minister Ralph Goodale,
who's long been the political godfather for the Liberals
in Saskatchewan and is now the Opposition House leader,
was opposed to Orchard running in the by-election.