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(Posted 1:30 p.m., Nov. 8)
Orléans lawyer David Bertschi enters Liberal leadership race
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Orléans lawyer and veteran Liberal Party organizer David Bertschi has officially thrown his hat into the ring to replace former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

Many Ottawa-Orléans residents may remember Bertschi from the last federal election when he fell short in his bid to unseat local Conservative incumbent Royal Galpeau by less than five per cent of the vote.

Bertschi, 52, is fluently bilingual, having been born in St. Adele, Quebec. He was a party organizer under both John Turner and Jean Chretien during the 1980s. He took a break to raise his family and build up his law practice through the late 90s and into the 00s, when he decided to jump back into the fray to help Ignatieff win the Liberal leadership in 2009.

After the Liberal defeat in 2011, Bertschi expressed his desire to help rebuild the Liberal Party from through the grassroots, and later traveled extensively across Canada to guage support for a possible leadership bid.

He must have been buoyed by what he heard, because on Tuesday he announced his intention to run before a crowd of 250 enthusiastic supporters at École secondaire publique Gisèle-Lalonde that included Ottawa-Orléans MPP Phil McNeely and former MPPs Gilles Morin and Jean Poirier.

An obvious dark horse in a race that so far includes Justin Trudeau and Deborah Coyne, Bertschi is confident he can come up the middle with a strong ground game and his position as a political "outsider".

“You can choose to continue down the same old path of manufactured leadership from the backrooms.. where the grassroots are ignored and our party is controlled by a handful of elites,” Bertschi told the gathering. “Or, you can choose leadership that’s committed to rebuilding the Liberal Party from the grassroots.”

Ulike past leadership races where each riding association would nominate delegates to attend the leadership convention, the Liberal Party has adopted a new process that allows Liberal supporters who are not card-carryong members to have a say in who the next leader will be through a preferential ballot.

Each of the candidates will deliver a televised speech in early April which will trigger the voting process. Anyone who identifies themselves as a Liberal supporters will have a week to cast a preferential ballot on line. The results will then be announced at the Liberal convention on April 14.

The new rules can be interpreted two ways. Thay will either help high profiles candidates like Trudeau, whose name alone, will solicit votes, or it will help grassroots campaigns like Bertschi's by bringing into play party supporters who have no previous affiliation with the Liberal Party establishment.

Bertschi is obviously hoping for the later, but it will take a concerted effort both in terms of findraising and travel to make it happen.

The Fallingbrook resident and father of six has already visited more than 20 different ridings in five provinces.

"My intention is to visit every riding in the province," says Bertschi whose platform includes fiscal responsibility, youth employment, assistance for returning veterans and seniors, developing a national stratefy with the provine to deal with escalating health care costs, and rebuilding and reinforcing the national fabric of the country, including the federal bureaucracy.

Former Glengarry-Precott-Russell MPP Jean Poirier is one Bertschi's most ardent supporters.

“Tonight, I feel a new beginning in the Liberal Party of Canada,” said Poirier. “In this country, we urgently need a leader — a visionary — and I see in David Bertschi the best person to lead our country into the future.”

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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