Thursday, December 20, 2007

My David Orchard Line in the Sand

Let me get this straight. Ralph Goodale - who I happen to like a great deal - doesn't want a proven grassroots organizer that could put us on the map in western Canada to run for the Liberal Party of Canada. In addition, he asks Senator Smith for support on the notion.

The same Senator Smith that lead the Liberal Party to three consecutive majority governments, including an almost perfect victory in Ontario once. Surely David Smith fully understands the importance of grassroots campaigns and how profitable they can be to a party.

My memory doesn't fail me often but, until Gary Merasty, wasn't Ralphie a one hit wonder in Sask? The Liberals are good for one whole seat in the province. And it's been that way forever in that province.

In David we have a grassroots, environmentally and aboriginal friendly, money-raising, people-organizing machine. Imagine what he can do for us in Western Canada. he's already won 1.5 leadership contests federally. Just maybe he can be a huge catalyst for Liberal membership in those western provinces.

Here's another article in today's paper.

David Orchard, Dion's dilemma

Randy Burton
The StarPhoenix

Thursday, December 20, 2007

After three federal leadership races, you would think the federal political structure would begin to get the idea.

When you sign on with David Orchard, you're not forming a partnership with a guy who is prepared to lie down and be run over if the leader thinks it advisable.

What you get is a practised grassroots politician with a flair for organization. You also get a committed activist who expects to be treated with some respect for his abilities. It sounds simple enough, but for some reason, this equation does not seem to compute easily in Ottawa.

The scene now unfolding in Liberal circles bears all the hallmarks of a movie Orchard has seen before. The script goes something like this:

Ambitious politician seeking his party's leadership sees an opportunity for a come-from-behind victory by running a low-cost, network-heavy campaign. In order to succeed, he enlists the help of a nationally known political maverick long on principles but short on compromise. After achieving an unlikely victory with the maverick's help, the candidate turns his back on his unlikely helpmate, freezing him out of the inner circle he yearns for.

If this sounds familiar it should. Orchard played the maverick's role opposite Peter MacKay in the old Progressive Conservative party and he seems to be repeating the role in Stephane Dion's Liberal party.

This is what's happening.

For the past six weeks, Orchard has been campaigning for the Liberal nomination in the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, which was vacated by former Liberal MP Gary Merasty last September. Unless a general election is called first, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will call a byelection for Churchill River within the next couple of months.

With his typical work ethic, Orchard has already sold hundreds of Liberal memberships at $25 apiece, no small feat in the poorest federal riding in the province. However, it may all be for naught.

Anxious to increase the number of women running for the Liberals in the next federal election, Dion is considering appointing former provincial NDP cabinet minister Joan Beatty to be the party's candidate in the northern riding.

So far, she hasn't said anything about this one way or the other beyond the fact that both the NDP and the Liberals want her as a candidate. I suppose it would be hopelessly old-fashioned to suggest she has an obligation to the voters who just re-elected her to the legislature, but that's another issue.

However, it's pretty clear that unless she's appointed, she doesn't have a snowball's chance in Phoenix of becoming the Liberal candidate in northern Saskatchewan.

That's not to say Orchard would be the obvious winner of a contested nomination, given that he would first have to get by local consultant and educator John Dorion. But there is no doubt he would have an insurmountable head start over Beatty should she choose to run.

What's particularly interesting about this is that the only reason Beatty is a consideration is because Saskatchewan Liberal heavyweight Ralph Goodale does not want Orchard as a candidate. He is also said to have made this crystal clear to Liberal campaign co-chair David Smith, a senator from Toronto.

Exactly why remains a mystery.

It may be that Goodale doesn't want the Liberal brand to be confused with Orchards' long-standing concerns about free trade and what that might do to the Liberals' chances with the business community. It may be that Orchard represents something of a wild card in terms of public messaging. Not all of his issues are necessarily Liberal issues, and he is unlikely to express his views in Goodale's trademark opaque manner. It may also be that Goodale doesn't want to be supplanted as the province's most influential Liberal should Orchard wind up getting elected to Parliament.

Whatever the reason, this turn of events puts Dion in a bit of a pickle, given that neither of his options are particularly attractive. He can accede to the demands of his parliamentary House leader and short-circuit Orchard's run for the nomination. But to do so would be to poke a stick in the eye of the man who played a crucial role in his successful run for the leadership last year. It's clear that without the 150 delegates Orchard delivered, Dion could not have won.

If he cared about that, Dion would stay strictly out of the nomination and let the chips fall where they may. But if he does, he runs the risk of alienating Goodale, the only Liberal MP in Saskatchewan who actually has a winning record.

The ultimate choice he makes will say a lot about whether Dion represents generational change in the Liberals or merely new management.


bigcitylib said...

Libs gotta give Orchard his shot. More pluses than minuses with him, even if he's a bit nutty.

CfSR said...

I don't buy it.

Orchard may have a good record on grass roots self-promotion, but that doesn't make him a Liberal.

It sure as hell doesn't give him a pass in a winnable riding with a large Aborignal population.

Frankly, if the leader of the party can find a quality aboriginal candidate to run in a riding where Liberals need the aboriginal vote to win, I can live with an appointment.

If David Orchard is a Liberal team player, he should be able to understand that too.

His team, if he is a team player, needs to win that seat. Others are more likely to do so. Orchard should step back for the good of the party and the leader he supported.

It's the right thing to do.

Lizt. said...

I do not like the idea of Dion appointing people, and in this instance, it stinks. One would think that the fiasco in Quebec, would have taught him a lesson. I am a good Liberal and have been for years, but I do not like this.

Sean S. said...

you have a point there. The Liberals, federally, lack the basic grassroots organization in most of the 14 ridings in Saskatchewan. To turn away someone with a proven track record of mobilizing support is a risky move.

burlivespipe said...

Not familiar with Saskatchewan politics, I believe its essential that the candidate matches the riding -- is Beatty representing this riding (or portion) in the legislature? I know Orchard owns a farm, run by a son I believe, in the riding, but he doesn't live there.
It's dangerous that this is being chomped on in the media because, as noted, Beatty hasn't decided which party she'd run for federally. I think that alone puts her as a risky consideration at this point -- unless she takes out a membership ASAP.
As to Orchard, there are a couple of other ridings he would be a fit for, due to support and residency.
Here in my riding, a suburban BC community where we typically run a distant but occasionally strong third, Orchardists are a big help. If their leader is spurned it would ripple here, I'm certain.
But still, I believe that a reasonable solution is possible.

RuralSandi said...

"Your" line in the sand?

My line in the sand - can we be guaranteed that Orchard would stick to "Liberal" values and issues?

That' a very big if and a very important question.

James Curran said...

Good Morning All,

Nice to hear from all of you.

CFSR, he's not asking for a pass. He's asking to fight a nomination.

Lizt, exactly.

Hi Sandi,
I don't know if he is more Liberal or less Liberal than a lot of others in our party. I know what he's been doing on behalf of our part for the past 16 months and it is a great deal more than some sitting MPs. Certainly much more than a sitting member for the NDP provincial party. That's for sure.

CfSR said...

In my books, letting him run in a nomination that Orchard risks winning for a seat he won't win is a pass.

I don't want want to hand this seat to Stephen Harper.

For the good of the party, Orchard should withdraw.

If he won't, I would not whine if Dion were to appoint a candidate more likely to win.

James Curran said...

With Harrison winning in the Provincial Election for the Sask Party, Robert G. Clarke has now become the CON candidate. I'm going to bet that David can pull Conservative votes away form the CONS that Gary couldn't appeal to last time out. David winning the nomination is a Conservative's nightmare. The NDP haven't been a factor there for some time.