Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Today's announcement that provincial leader David Karwacki will step down is a bad enough sign for the state of the Libs in Saskatchewan (if due to the perception of further defeat rather than Karwacki's own stature). But it looks like matters may only get worse, as the two leading figures within the federal party are on a collision course over the impending Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River by-election:
Stéphane Dion's hope of appointing a provincial NDP politician as the Liberal candidate for an expected federal by-election in Saskatchewan is angering supporters of one of his key leadership organizers, David Orchard.

The battle over who will carry the Liberal banner in a vast northern Saskatchewan riding has developed into a power struggle pitting MP Ralph Goodale, the party's strong man in the province, against Mr. Orchard, the prominent farm activist who twice ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives.

Mr. Orchard has been campaigning heavily for the Liberal nomination in the riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, but Mr. Dion is seriously considering overriding the nomination race to appoint NDP MLA Joan Beatty as the candidate, Liberal sources said.

However, Ms. Beatty said yesterday that she has not decided whether she will run in the by-election, and even if she does, she hasn't yet chosen between the Liberals and the NDP.

"I've been approached to run federally for the northern riding by both the Liberals and the NDP. I have some decisions I have to make," she said in a telephone interview...

Mr. Dion's Saskatchewan leadership campaign was essentially the Orchard machine, and Mr. Orchard's organization also delivered delegates in rural Ontario and Alberta, as well as raising funds for the cash-poor campaign. That played a key role in placing Mr. Dion within striking distance on the first ballot at last December's Liberal leadership convention.

Mr. Orchard's senior organizers say they refuse to believe that Mr. Dion will appoint a candidate.

"It would be a colossal mistake on so many different levels," said Marjaleena Repo, an organizer for Mr. Orchard who also served as Saskatchewan co-chair for Mr. Dion's leadership campaign. "It would be very, very offensive."

"I would be anti-democratic and against every understanding and agreement - being asked to run there, and encouraged to run, and doing his damnedest to do a good job, and then somebody appointed over him? It would be just insane."
Now, I'm not entirely sure what party Orchard's organizers think they've joined if they "refuse to believe" that Dion would appoint a candidate rather than allowing riding association democracy to run its course. But this does offer yet another example of the inevitable frustration when a leader does impose candidates by fiat. And it's worth noting that the fracture within the Libs may well affect more than just the party's current members - particularly if a battle does go public before Beatty has made up her mind.

After all, the article notes that Beatty isn't yet tipping her hand as to which federal party she'd prefer to run for. And if the Libs are indeed in the midst of yet another round of internal turmoil which affects the very organization which would be needed to win the seat, then the NDP can only look all the better in comparison.

It remains to be seen whether the Libs will manage to create a perfect storm for themselves by outright driving Orchard and his followers out of the party entirely just in time to have Beatty turn them down as well. But one way or another, it looks entirely possible that the Libs may be left with nothing but yet another self-inflicted wound to show for Dion's musings about appointing Beatty.

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