Ever since Justin Tradeau announced he is going to run for leadership of the Liberal Party, there has been a sudden rush to jump on to this leadership bandwagon.
Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi has now become the latest aspirant to join this race.
Not exactly a household name in Canadian politics, Bertschi says he comes to the Liberal leadership race with seemingly contradictory credentials — as an outsider from the national capital.
Though he was a candidate in the 2011 election, Bertschi failed to wrest the Ottawa-Orleans riding away from Conservative incumbent Royal Galipeau, losing by about 4,000 votes.
Bertschi says he has heard the criticism — that the next leader of the party should be someone who has already proven an ability to be elected. But he believes that the Liberal party needs a “fresh set of eyes and a fresh way of doing things.”
“Often times you need someone from the outside to rebuild the party,” Bertschi told the voice earlier this when he was on a tour of BC.
Bertschi believes 0his entire life story — child of a single, working mother, a self-made, successful lawyer — fits the needs of a Liberal party that needs to pick itself up and reinvent itself.
The Liberals need to cure themselves, Bertschi says, of the “top-down” thinking that he believes is responsible for the party’s current exile in the political wilderness.
Bertschi, 52, was born and raised in Quebec, an anglophone kid who went to French schools in the small towns of St. Adele and Verdun, and spending his teen-aged years in Montreal.
He went to Carleton University in Ottawa and then earned a law degree from the University of Windsor in 1983. His law firm, where he specializes in business and insurance, now employs 30 people.
He’s been a lifelong Liberal, and says he was prompted to run for the leadership by a number of people in the business community around Canada, who believed that the party needed an infusion of outside thinking.
For much of the past year, Bertschi has been conducting an “exploratory” campaign, travelling in his SUV across the country and amassing enough support to believe he could mount a credible leadership bid.
He says he has about 1,000 volunteers in place, but he probably won’t spend the entire $950,000 limit for campaign expenses over the next five months, leading to the leadership decision on April 14.
Bertschi has been watching all the hype around the candidacy of Justin Trudeau, the Montreal MP and son of the former prime minister who plunged into the race with much fanfare a month ago. Trudeau is repeatedly described as the likely winner, headed for a coronation, and he may have scared off some potential challengers.
Bertschi says he’s not daunted. He’s chatted with Trudeau and he likes him, but he also indicates that he’ll be framing himself as a very different kind of Liberal — one who was raised in more modest circumstances, more in touch with everyday lives of Canadians.
He also subtly hints at his age difference — a decade older than the 40-year-old Trudeau — as an advantage.
Bertschi expects that there will be about a half-dozen competitors in the race, which officially starts on Nov. 14. Others who have announced candidacies in the past few weeks include Deborah Coyne and Alex Burton. Montreal MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau is still not saying whether he’s intending to run and former MP Martha Hall-Findlay is widely expected to enter the race soon.