Federal Liberal leadership candidate David Bertschi met with Rotarians in Kenora on Monday, but he didn’t make a big political speech. Instead, he chose to meet and talk more intimately with the business leaders at the weekly Rotary Club lunch.
Bertschi, who is a lawyer from Ottawa, has been driving across the country and meeting with small groups like the Kenora Rotary Club in many different communities in what he is calling a “grassroots” campaign.
“I’ve always been involved at the grassroots level,” he said. “You always learn far more about people’s concerns, their interests, and what we have in common by doing what I’m doing.”
After the electoral flogging that the Liberal Party of Canada took in the 2011 election that dropped them into third place, Bertschi said his party has started listening to Canadians again.
“My candidacy is about not only about listening, but about about looking at the evidence, formulating policies that have immediate impact and a long-term vision for a better country. No more top-down policies, grasping at straws, or looking for a silver bullet to solve all our problems immediately.”
On the economy, Bertschi said he wants to make sure that raw natural resources, such as lumber and oil, from Canada are processed inside of Canada instead of exporting them untouched to other countries and — he argued — all the processing jobs with them.
“People are talking about how he middle class is shrinking and we’re losing jobs, well you know what? We’re still exporting our raw resources still to this day without manufacturing or refining.”
Bertschi said private industry is sitting on billions of dollars that they could be using to create these domestic processing jobs, but it is not happening because the tax incentive system is broken. To fix it, he said a Liberal government under his leadership would reduce corporate tax write-offs that don’t involve job creation or investment in innovation.
“We need to have proper public research facilities for the public good, and we encourage companies to compliment public research. So we need tax policies that simpler and more effective …and if need be the government needs to be more aggressively involved,” said Bertsci.
On aboriginal rights, Bertschi said a Liberal government would adhere to all the duties and responsibilities the federal government has towards First Nations and their constitutionally protected treaty rights, including the right to be consulted, which he said the Conservatives have violated with their recent omnibus bills. But Bertschi noted calls for scraping the Indian Act need careful consideration.
“Many bands across the country do not favour getting rid of the Indian Act immediately, it has to be a gradual process where we come up with a solution first.”
There is a long shadow being cast over the Liberal Party leadership campaign, and it belongs to Justin Trudeau; considered by many political commentators to be the frontrunner, if not already a sure win.
While Bertschi said that Trudeau has done much to help rebuild the party, he said that he himself is a better fit as party leader.
“From my perspective from knocking on doors and meeting people at small-medium businesses and gas stations, they are telling me that they want leadership that is fundamentally rooted in experience and substance,” said Bertschi.
“(Canadians) want substance, not just slogans.”