|Written by Trevor Busch|
|Thursday, 07 February 2013 15:30|
|With the province often considered an impregnable bulwark of conservative support, in the lead up to a leadership vote in April a number of federal Liberal Party leadership candidates have been braving the Tory shores of Alberta to get their message across.
Last week, federal Liberal Party leadership candidate David Bertschi made a campaign stop in Taber to elaborate on his vision for the party and the nation.
“My grandfather fought at Passchendaele and Ypres. When he passed away, one legacy he left me with was we have to leave the world a better place,” said Bertschi. “I believe public service is really important, I feel that my generation has failed to take the bull by the horns, failed to make tough decisions, and address real concerns. I believe in a certain vision for Canada, and I’ve been going across the country meeting with Canadians and Liberals, and talking to them about six core values that I think are critical to rebuilding the Liberal Party, and also getting Canada on the right track. I’m talking about the economy, health, the environment, good governance, and Canada’s role in international affairs.”
Currently hailing from Ontario, Bertschi is one of nine candidates seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, and is considered to be something of a dark horse candidate. Coming from a lower middle class background in his youth, he worked hard to achieve success in his career and life as a lawyer and businessman.
“I was born in a small town, 2,500 people approximately — Sainte-Adèle, Quebec, north of Montreal. I was raised by my mother. At the time I was eight and a half, my kid sister was one at the time. She raised me without any assistance from anyone. She had to go to work, and I was left alone, because if she didn’t show up for work she was fired, frankly. She taught me hard work, determination, perseverance and honesty were the keys to success. So I worked multiple jobs from that time onward, put myself through school, and became a lawyer. As a lawyer, I’ve been involved in the business of law, and a Crown attorney, for 28 years. I always worked full-time as a civil litigation lawyer, but I’ve also had an additional part-time job as an attorney, human rights prosecutor, university lecturer, and I was actively involved throughout as a mediator, and also in various charities, specifically involving autistic children, and helping others.”
Youth are attending college and university with the promise of excellent employment opportunities upon convocation, but that promise no longer always holds true, according to Bertschi.“I believe that people running for public office are there to represent all of their constituents, regardless of who votes for them. My background in business and law provides me with the perspective. As a father of six children, it provides me with the real-world experience of the fact that today’s younger generations, we’ve promised them if they go to school they’ll get a good job. Well, they’re going to school in record numbers, but guess what — the jobs aren’t there, because my generation has failed to deal with the really tough issues and address the concerns of that generation. That’s part of it. I also believe that we have to be principled, direct, and open about what we do.”
With the federal Liberal Party increasingly marginalized in recent years, through a series of leadership troubles, poor showings at elections, and now third party status in the House, Bertschi is confident he brings leadership qualities to the table that will help to reverse this downward spiral for the party.
“I look as an example to Lester B. Pearson. He parked his eagle at the door, brought in the best and the brightest, gave them the responsibility to manage their individual critic portfolios, or ministerial portfolios, and believed in government responsibility, and ministerial responsibility. He knew how to work for the Canadian public — because that’s why we’re elected, to represent our constituents and our country. We’re not there, as Members of Parliament, just to take marching orders from the prime minister’s office. That to me is a huge disconnect. What I bring is 28 years of experience, a belief that there’s no monopoly on good ideas, and a belief that it’s an honourable profession, but it has to start acting like it. When you’re in Parliament, MPs have to have a role, committees have to have a role, people when they do something wrong, have to resign.”
While the present federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims to represent “conservative” values, Bertschi asserts the evidence says otherwise, especially when considering the cost of government.
“We have to be mindful, as a business person in particular, I don’t spend what I don’t have. Canadian families don’t spend what they don’t have, generally speaking. This government increased the role of government by 40 per cent in five years, but spins it otherwise — there’s a problem.”
Restoring the “Canadian advantage” is Bertschi’s campaign slogan, something he feels has been lost in Ottawa.
“For the party, It’s about empowering local riding associations and rebuilding it with a strict adherence and listening model, where fundraising is kept local, and monies are used to help the riding associations connect with all of the community. From the country perspective, we have to look at a number of huge challenges which relate to employment. There are a lot of people who are unemployed and underemployed across the country. Government has to be more efficient and responsive to the needs of the public, we have to save our health care, and we have to have a greater role in the world. I call it re-establishing the Canadian advantage.”
The leadership question for the Liberal Party of Canada will be decided at an upcoming leadership convention on April 14.