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Liberal leadership hopeful getting in touch with King St.

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Liberal Party of Canada leadership hopeful David Bertschi (right) talks about local issues with JMacs Barbershop owner Jason MacDonald as he cuts the hair of Bertschi’s campaign manager, Kevin Chalmers. Photo by Jon Thompson

A lesser-known contender in the upcoming race to lead the Liberal Party of Canada could be found talking politics with merchants in downtown Dryden, Monday.

Ottawa-based lawyer David Bertschi overnighted in Dryden, Feb. 4, on his way east across the nation on a tour to engage Canadians on his plans to rebuild the federal Liberals.

Raised by a single mother and working as a trial lawyer and crown attorney for 28 years, Bertschi says his lack of electoral experience is an asset with voters who are weary of career politicians. Bertschi ran in, but lost the riding of Ottawa-Orleans in the 2011 election, though he garnered the fifth-highest number of Liberal votes in the election.

“What I’m finding is that Canadians are really looking for someone of substance to rebuild the party and earn back the trust of Canadians,” said Bertschi. “When I’m going across the country and meeting with small businesses and academics, farmers and hunters and fishermen, what I’m hearing is that they expect the government to lead by example. They want Members of Parliament to bring back to Parliament what their constituents are telling them. They don’t want everything to be governed by one man, with a whole bunch of other people who were not elected, running the country. They want government accountability and responsibility.”

With tensions running high between First Nations and all levels of government, Bertschi says his approach would involve more dialogue.

“A lot of promises have been made over the past several years — a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of action,” said Bertschi. “You’ve seen the rise of the Idle No More and other movements. We need to enter into immediate and meaningful negotiations on a nation-to-nation basis. Given the sheer number of Aboriginal peoples, we need to address their immediate concerns of education, health care, food and water, housing and sharing of the economic load on a parallel level.”

In his travels, Bertschi says he’s recently spent some time speaking with scientists whose concerns for the fate of the Experimental Lakes Area became his own.

“It’s shocking, it’s short-sighted and it’s not right,” he said. “The research is a critical component and it’s something we need to address. It should stay there. It’s just common sense.”

With much of the discussion around the Liberal leadership race focused on MP Justin Trudeau, Bertschi says

“Justin’s a fine young person and he and I and others are involved in rebuilding the party, but Canadians are looking at an alternative to Stephen Harper and the NDP,” he said. “They’re looking for experience, substance and concrete answers to their questions. That, I think, is important. I think I have the perspective of what it takes to increase the vote, increase the financial wherewithal and to get us back in government.”

 By Chris Marchand

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