By Grant LaFleche, The Standard
Listening to David Bertschi talk, it becomes clear he is pining his Liberal leadership hopes as much on narrative as he is on policy.
What he lacks in political experience — the Ottawa man has never been an elected MP — he is trying to make up for with personal history.
Raised by a single mother in Quebec, David Bertschi made it to law school the hard way. He worked two paper routes as a kid. Always had summer jobs and relied on loans and scholarships to afford tuition.
“I was raised to believe in hard work, in Canadian values,” said Bertschi, a leadership candidate for the federal Liberals who made a short stop at the St. Catharines Standard offices Tuesday. “I’ve never give up on the idea of what hard work can get you.”
Bertschi’s Tuesday stop is part of a coast-to-coast driving tour as part of his leadership campaign. He started in Vancouver and has been on the road to drum up support for his leadership bid.
“This is the best way to meet Canadians,” he said. “If you want to meet average Canadians, I tell you, this is the way to do it.”
Bertschi touts his professional experience as a lawyer who ran his own firm in Ottawa as evidence he understands the struggles of small and medium sized business owners in Canada. He contrasts that with the academic background of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who Bertschi said is big on theory but has little practical experience.
“I know what it is like to fill out pay roll and tax forms,” he said.
He emphasized business experience and personal history over his political experience, which has been limited largely to behind the scenes work within the party, including working with John Turner and Jean Chretien.
He did run in an Ottawa riding during the last federal election and lost, but says he made the most gains in terms of total votes of any Liberal candidate.
The problem the party had during the last election, he said, was that it has stopped listening to Canadians, preferring a top down policy strategy that ultimately failed to connect with voters. If the party is to regain the relevance it once had as a centrist, big tent party, it needs to pay attention to Canadians, he said.
“We need to listen to Canadians, and listen carefully,” Berschi said.