Liberal candidate Bertschi pushes 'substance'
His audience may have been significantly smaller, but David Bertschi isn't cowed by the response fellow Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidate Justin Trudeau is experiencing.
The day after Trudeau drew a crowd of about 600 to Thompson Rivers University, Bertschi met with a handful of party faithful at Red Beard Roaster, a North Kamloops coffee shop where the questions came at him fast.
Bertschi, a Crown lawyer who ran unsuccessfully in his Ottawa-Orleans riding in the 2011 federal election, described himself as the candidate not being supported by the party establishment — but he is undeterred in his campaign.
"I'm a pragmatic ideologue," he said, " and we've got to do what's right.
"I don't believe in the culture of celebrity. I'm bucking the trend because people want substance."
And, doing things "right" under a Bertschi leadership would include ensuring food security through tax incentives, ensuring producers are well-equipped, providing retraining when necessary and not dismantling farm quotas that regulate supply management, as has been promoted by fellow candidate Martha Hall Findlay.
Promoting "muscular peacekeeping" would be "right" under a Bertschi leadership, he said, recognizing the reputation Canada received in that field when Lester Pearson was prime minister.
Canada would also need to address today's war realities, he said.
Addressing the country's transportation infrastructure would be another priority, Bertschi said, noting whenever he talks with local politicians as he travels the country in his leadership bid, that is one of their main concerns.
Del Turner challenged Bertschi during the coffee-shop question period telling him, "If you ask a person on the street what the Liberals stand for, they can't tell you — and neither can most Liberals."
Bertschi agreed the party needs to take stands and tell Canadians what those positions are, even if they won't be popular with the media.
Donna Marchand, wife of former federal Liberal cabinet minister Len Marchand, told Bertschi she is concerned no candidate is talking about arts and culture.
Bertschi's response included the need to invest in and promote the arts, but he took a swipe at the Conservative government's way of addressing the issue, which he said involves "starving out groups that don't fit with their ideology."
Asked why he is opposed to uniting the left side of the political spectrum, much as the Reform and Progressive Conservatives did to the right, Bertschi said his party and the NDP have "totally different perspectives.
"The Liberals stand for a strong, healthy economy with fair taxes and a structure designed to help people reach their full potential," he said.
"The party also has an economic history, something the NDP does not.
"The NDP believes government should be into everything," he said, "and I don't believe money will solve all our problems."
If he is unsuccessful in his leadership bid, Bertschi said that won't end his political career.
He plans to seek his party's nomination in the next federal election, slated for Oct. 19, 2015. And, if he wins — he lost to the Conservative incumbent in the 2011 federal election by 3,837 votes — he has no eye on any seat in a Liberal cabinet, should his party also be successful.
"That's not why I'm running. I've never even thought of that," Bertschi said.
"This is about Canada. It's about what Pearson stood for."
THE RACE: Bertschi is one of nine candidates vying to succeed Michael Ignatieff as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The party will select its new leader in Ottawa on April 14. Fellow leadership candidate Justin Trudeau visited Kamloops on Monday, Jan. 21, while candidates Martha Hall Findlay and Karen McCrimmon will be in Kamloops on Wednesday, Jan. 23.