David Bertschi is a Quebec-born and Ontario-based insurance lawyer and prospective Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidate. He ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 federal election as the Liberal party’s candidate in the Ottawa-Orléans riding. In May of 2012, Bertschi established a ‘grassroots exploratory committee’ to gauge public support for a potential Liberal leadership bid.
The McGill Daily (MD): You’ve said you’re “strongly considering” running to be the leader of the Liberal party. The leadership race is several months away and there are only a couple officially declared candidates and few prospective candidates. Why are you getting such an early start?
David Bertschi (DB): Because I believe in being prepared […] As a trial layer who’s been practicing for over 28 years it’s all about preparation, reorganization, and it’s also all about dedication. You need a clear approach to matters… for the past several months I’ve been traveling across the country, coast to coast to coast, and meeting with Canadians and discussing with Canadians of all political stripes about what they believe is important and what the federal government needs to do to properly address their concerns. And from there once I’ve finished traveling, then I will sit down with my family and the people who frankly approached me to consider running, and then I’ll make my decision.
MD: Was it after the federal election in 2011 that people approached you and asked if you’d think about running?
DB: Yes…I was approached within a span of about a month[…] And you know, we’ve got lots of talented people in the Liberal party of Canada, in Quebec, in Ontario, and across the country. They’re Canadians who believe in a balanced approach to politics, who believe that you have to encourage and have an economic environment that’s healthy, that you encourage entrepreneurship because small businesses really are the backbone of our country. But at the same time you have to take care of the vulnerable. You’ve got to support, care for, and help those who are less fortunate or do no not have the wherewithal to succeed, and that’s the true sign of a healthy society. And frankly the Harper government has failed miserably at looking after First Nations. And I [mean] looking after the issues that everyone is facing. If they’re the First Nations, they’re not addressing them, if they’re the provinces, they don’t speak to them. The Harper government and Mr. Mulcair’s NDP are ideologically driven. Canadians want a reasonable alternative to the Harper government.
MD: And what would your specific alternative be?
DB: My view is that a federation is made up of constituent points. The federal government, the provincial governments, the municipal governments, they all have their respective jurisdictions and at the same time you have to work together as Canadians. There’s no monopoly on good ideas. And I find that the Harper government dismisses any good idea if it’s not from their ideology, as does Mr. Mulcair. If it’s not dealing with a certain stance on an issue they discount it, and that’s wrong. Canada is a very large, very complex country and we have to listen to people and work with them to solve the problems.
MD: With this all in mind, what are your thoughts on the recent results of the Quebec election?
DB: You know, Quebec politics are fascinating. The citizens of Quebec are extremely well-informed and engaged. And as many have written recently, Quebec people have spoken by the way they have voted. It’s been a very unique approach to the governance. Obviously they were disenchanted by certain parties and obviously they weren’t enchanted with anyone to give them a sufficiently large number of seats. I think the Quebec election also bodes well for the Liberal party…Mr. Charest and his government certainly defied the pollsters by getting fifty seats.
MD: You ran in 2011, but you’ve never held office. Without a voting record or something that people can refer to in the way of political experience, how are you going to convince people, say you are to run, that you’d be experienced enough for the job?
DB: […] I’ve run a number of successful multi-million dollar businesses and I’ve created successful businesses […] Plus, as someone who was born in raised initially in Sainte Adèle, Quebec, who was educated in French, I also understand the diversity of our country when it comes to the importance of bilingualism and French culture in the fibre of our country.
MD: I found there was a huge disconnect between students in other provinces and those here. Did you try to help students from opposite ends of the country understand each other?
DB: […] I certainly established and discussed with others across the country the challenges that the students were facing in Quebec. And a lot of those challenges, students were facing elsewhere as well. We have to keep striving to do a better job and to make sure that the economy grows, that there are jobs for students, that education is always not only affordable but very accessible to all. Because that’s one of the primary ways to get people out of circumstances that they find themselves in, into a better situation. Education is critical and I could relate to the concerns of the students across the country when they worry about the debt load they’re facing. The fact that when they graduate they still can’t get a job, let alone a job in their own chosen field. The fact that they’re burdened with debt. The fact that they cannot only not pay them off, but they’re burdened with the thought, “when will I ever be able to afford a house or start a family?” because they want something like I wanted and something better for their children.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.