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(Posted 11:30 p.m., Feb. 21)
Ottawa-Orléans Liberal nomination race shaping up to be a very 'high profile' affair

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

In the arena of party politics, riding nomination races don't normally receive much attention beyond a few headlines in the local community newspaper.

The exception is when a star candidate is involved, and in those cases the nomination is usually uncontested so there isn't much to write about. Not so the upcoming Liberal nomination race in Ottawa-Orléans where three men stand poised to throw their hats into the ring, including probably the most talked about Liberal in the country, save for Justin Trudeau.

Retired general Andrew Leslie has been waiting to announce his intended candidacy until after this weekend's Liberal convention in Montreal. He's been pegged by the Liberal Party as a potential "high profile" candidate, and after the controversy of the past week involving the cost of his move from his former residence to his current home, his profile couldn't be any higher.

Whether or not it will help his chances of winning the nomination is anybody's guess.

Ironically, one of the men he will need to beat in order to win the nomination is former Liberal candidate David Bertschi who last year ran for the Liberal leadership in the hope of raising his own profile. He ended up taking his name off the ballot two weeks before party members cast their votes.

Bertschi wants another shot at thrice-elected Conservative incumbent Royal Galipeau, who beat him in the last election. But before a rematch can happen, Bertschi must first win the nomination. In 2009, he beat out Innes Ward Coun. Rainer Bloess and former Orleans Chamber of Conmerce president Judith Cane, two people who were extremely low profile, at least outside of the riding.

This time around he must beat a retired Lieutenant-General who not only has an impressive resume that includes a career in military and public service, as well as a family tree that includes Andrew McNaughton, the man who led the Canadian Corps during the Second World War, and Brooke Claxton, who served as Defence Minister under Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent, he is also a member of Justin Trudeau's inner circle and was a featured speaker on the opening night of this weekend's convention.

Leslie may not be an official candidate yet, or even an official candidate for the local nomination, but he's already had a huge target placed on his back by the Conservatives who claim he came to them first before he joined the Liberals.

According to e-mails obtained by the Toronto Star, Leslie discussed several options with high ranking members of the Prime Minister's Office on two separate occasions -- in June 2011 and again in September 2012.

The initial correspondence between Leslie and the PMO took place during the lead up to his retirement from military service in Sept. 2011 and were in regards to a possible position at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. He later withdraw his name from consideration to pursue another opportunity as a consultant with the CGI Group.

An analysis of the second series of correspondence would seem to indicate that the PMO approached Leslie about a possible high level position with the RCMP. Leslie elected not to pursue the offer, but he didn't take his name out of the mix entirely.

“After a great deal of thinking, I have decided to not pursue the RCMP position,” Leslie apparently wrote in an e-mail published by the Toronto Star on Friday that was dated Sept. 28, 2011. “If there were no other suitable candidates then duty would kick in, as I would never say no to the PM. But I do not think this is the case.”

None of the e-mails published would indicate that Leslie ever entertained a thought of running for the Conservatives in the next election.

The Toronto Star story does allude to a Liberal source that apparently has knowledge that Leslie was encouraged to run for the Conservatives in either Ottawa-Vanier, or Carleton-Mississippi Mills, but the source is not named. It would also seem to indicate that it was the Conservatives who were doing the encouraging.

One thing that is known for certain is that the Conservatives feel Leslie is enough of a threat to go after him before he's even had a chance to officially announce his intention to seek Liberal nomination.

It all makes for a very interesting and potentially very dramatic nomination race.

The third person expected to throw his hat into the ring is long-time Liberal and former member of parliament Gar Knutson who represented the Southern Ontario riding of Elgin-Norfolk in the House of Commons from 1993 to 2004.

After losing his seat in the 2004 general election, he remained in Ottawa and took up residence in Orléans where he sought the local Liberal nomination against Marc Godbout in 2006, one year after the former Liberal incumbent lost his own seat in the House of Commons to Galipeau.

Godbout would win the nomination against Knutson and three other party hopefuls, but ultimately lose to Galipeau in the 2007 general election.

The Conservative MP will be waiting in the wings for whoever emerges from the Liberal nomination race. Galipeau has already declared his intention to seek a fourth term in office after successfully undergoing treatment for a rare form of blood cancer.

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

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