Despite not having the largest campaign, federal Liberal Party leader candidate David Bertschi believes that substance will help propel him to the top.
“When I’m talking to people, substance trumps flash,” said Bertschi, who was in town to meet with Dawson Creek voters on Thursday.
“When I walk away with people who want policies that can really affect change, they’re happy with it.”
Bertschi travelled through town as part of a cross-Canada tour to get votes throughout B.C. and other areas. On Wednesday he drove over the Pine Pass in his Mercedes, from Prince George to the Peace Region. He is travelling by car because he believes that it will allow him to better connect with the Canadians he meets en route, according to his press officer.
“There are 308 ridings, there are 100 points a riding, and there’s three months to go,” he added. “So there’s a lot of opportunity.”
However, in order to win the leadership, he will have to overcome a sizeable disadvantage in the polls. According to a Forum Research poll released on Jan. 17 of over 1,600 random Canadians, Justin Trudeau was leading with 34 per cent of the vote, followed by Marc Garneau at 10 per cent. Unlike other candidates, Bertschi’s name was not even mentioned amongst the seven possible candidates. An earlier December poll by Forum Research had him gathering one per cent of these likely voters.
Part of what he hopes will attract voters to decrease this gap is his experience as a lawyer and businessman.
“I’ve built businesses and I’ve created job for 28 years,” he said.
However, Bertschi does not come with any experience politically. Bertschi ran in the Ottawa-Orleans riding in 2011, but lost to his Conservative incumbent Royal Gallipeau by about 3,900 votes, or seven per cent of the votes between them.
Nevertheless, he believes that he will emerge as the leader of the Liberal Party.
“It’s the members of the Liberal Party and the supporters who are not being talked to by the media,” Bertschi said.
Should Bertschi win, he will have to rebuild the Liberal Party after their loss of official opposition status last year.
“We’ve had top down policies (in the Liberal Party),” he said. “We have to fund differently the party structure, provide the riding association with more say in policy development, and we have to give members of parliament more of a say in government.”
Should he win the Liberal Party leadership, and should the Liberals win, Bertschi hopes to institute some changes in a variety of issues that will affect Canada and the Peace Region.
One issue that has been raised by people like Dr. Paul Kershaw has been the difficulty in finding affordable daycare and affordable housing for young families, something that Bertschi has seen growing up.
“When I was raised by a single mother we didn’t have (daycare) at all, so I understand the importance of daycare and enabling families to work without the risk or fear of what’s happening to their children,” he said.
Bertschi also hopes to address to change the country’s mortgage situation.
“Housing is critical for young families, and for all families,” he said. “There’s a problem with mortgages, there’s a problem with the working poor getting housing, and there’s a problem with homelessness … we need to have a plan to help young families and those who have the work history to get mortgages that are not as punitive as they appear to be now for most young families.”
Bertschi also said that he believes changes should be coming for the natural gas industry, which employs a large portion of Peace Region residents.
“I also believe that we haven’t done enough as a government to manufacture, refine and process (natural resource) products and then sell those products as a value-added product,” he said. “We have to make sure that we have a legitimate state-of-the-art standards that are enforced. That’s not been the case in the last little while.”
However, these messages may not be received as well locally as they may be in others. In the past, Peace Region voters have typically elected Conservative MPs, but Bertschi believes that his background in business could attract Peace Region voters.
“I believe there’s a lot of opportunity for the Liberals – whether it be blue Liberals or red Tories – to come back to the fold.”
It’s this pride in his party that have caused him to wear a bright red Liberal Party scarf nearly everywhere he goes.
“It shows that when I’m anywhere … you’d be amazed that people would engage you and talk with you and discuss things in a very polite and respectful way,” he said. “I think it’s important to show that you do believe in it and I’m not running for the hills.”