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Liberal hopeful Bertschi looking to improve debate

For federal Liberal leadership candidate David Bertschi, the meat of substance is more important than an element of style.
Federal Liberal Leadership candidate Justin Trudeau, left, and fellow candidate Martin Cauchon react to the crowds applause prior to the start of the Federal Liberal debate in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, January 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

For federal Liberal leadership candidate David Bertschi, the meat of substance is more important than an element of style.

The Ottawa lawyer is one of nine candidates vying for the centrist party's top spot when members vote in a new leader this spring.

Bertschi is the first to acknowledge that his ideas and talking points aren't sexy, but that he was annoyed by a lack of substance and clear direction from the party.

And while campaigning as a candidate in the 2011 federal election, he said he heard that same annoyance at the doors.

Bertschi arrived in Prince George Tuesday evening to meet with members of of the local Liberal riding association. He has been driving across the country to sit down and talk to party members and potential supporters in communities throughout Canada.

The candidate touts a need for a more grassroots approach and has in his back pocket a 24-point plan ranging from economic performance, social justice, foreign affairs, domestic policy and governance reform.

"This obsession of entitlement, grasping at straws and brass rings concerns me," he said.

"You don't have to be a rock star to run the country," he said, noting that people have chided him for his relatively small presence on social media. "Justin Bieber has 120 million people following him on Twitter, and I don't want him to run the country."

Though he was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to represent his home riding in the House of Commons in the last federal election, Bertschi had the distinction of receiving the fifth-highest number of Liberal votes in the country.

"But I didn't deliver the win," Bertschi acknowledged, though he said the party brand and the party leader also have a role to play.

A Liberal party under his leadership would get rid of the strictly top-down dynamic too often seen in federal politics, he proposed.

"When I was in Ottawa-Orleans knocking on doors, I had people tell me, 'You know, I really like you but I don't see you having any clout anywhere,'" he recalled. He said under his leadership, members of Parliament would be speaking for their constituents and would have the freedom with a portion of votes in the House to do so.

As it currently stands, Bertschi said he doesn't support the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project and that there needs to be strong environmental legislation in place.

"You have to look at everything you do through the prism of the environment," he said, but that doesn't mean "choking the economy."

"Substantive decisions that are the right decisions have to be made."

That willingness to make those calls and to actually have a plan in place from the time he made the decision to run for leadership is what drew Kevin Chalmers to Bertschi's side as campaign manager. B.C.-native Chalmers was a major player in getting come-from-behind candidate Stephane Dion elected as Liberal leader in 2006.

"I wanted someone I could be proud of going into the office," he said.

Bertschi's stop in the city comes days after the first all-candidates debate in Vancouver, which was held Jan. 20. Other candidates making the most of their time in British Columbia include Justin Trudeau, who arrived in Prince George Wednesday. Two public events with Trudeau will be held at UNBC at 11:15 and at the Civic Centre at 1 p.m.

Republished from the Prince George Citizen