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(Posted 9:30 a.m., May 21)
Liberals give Bertschi green light in bid for federal nomination

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Former Liberal candidate David Bertschi is hoping to wear the Liberal colours once again in next federal election, but first he must win the nomination after recently getting green-lighted by the party. File photo

Liberal hopeful David Bertschi has been given the green light to run for the federal nomination in Ottawa-Orléans, joining retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie as the only two candidates to so far get formal approval from the Liberal Party of Canada.

Bertschi made the announcement in a statement released on his Facebook page on Monday..

"Very pleased to announce that I am now officially in the race to become the next federal Liberal candidate in my home riding of Ottawa-Orléans.I want to thank everyone for their support. Merci a tous et toutes pour votre appui. Have a great week. Bonne semaine," Bertschi wrote.

Bertschi ran against Conservative incumbent Royal Galipeau in the 2011 General Election when he lost by less than 4,000 votes. Since then he's been actively carrying the Liberal Party colours at events throughout the riding and helping to build up the local war chest.

Bertschi ran for the party leadership in 2013, but ultimately had to pull out of the race three days before the leadership convention where Justin Trudeau won in a landslide.

The east end lawyer has been criticized by some in the Liberal camp for taking part in the leadership race, but Bertschi says he did it to help provide a fresh approach and fresh ideas to the issues facing the party.

"I have no regrets about running for the leadership. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to travel around the country and share my thoughts and ideas with other committed, hard-working Liberals who care deeply about the rebirth of this party, like I do," says Bertschi. "It was one of the best experiences of my life."

Bertschi has been waiting to be green-lighted for nearly a month. The reason for the delay is thought to be his lingering debt from the leadership race. Earlier this year, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau issued a directive that no one could seek a nomination as long as they had outstanding debt from previous Liberal leadership contests. The position was later clarified to allow Liberal leadership candidates the opportunity to bring their outstanding debt to less than $100,000 with a plan to eliminate it entirely.

Bertschi's outstanding debt at the conclusion of the leadership race was $150,000, nearly half of which was the nomination fee. He has since raised nearly $60,000 to bring his debt down to less than $92,000 and counting.

With the debt issue out of the way, Bertschi can now focus on the nomination race and staving off the challenge from Andrew Leslie, who is considered by many to be the preferred choice of party insiders including the leader.

Leslie was appointed co-chair of the party's international affairs committee last September and has provided advice to the Liberal leader on foreign and defence issues. He was also a keynote speaker at the Liberal convention in March.

The addition of Leslie to the local nomination race has caused a rift among local Liberal supporters. A number of Bertschi's former supporters have switched their allegiance and are now supporting Leslie. But the race has also had the effect of galvanizing support among Liberals still loyal to Bertschi.

To his credit, Bertschi sees the heightened public interest, generated by Leslie's running, as a positive rather than a negative.

"I look at it as a positive opportunity to highlight and showcase our party and the people who are willing to become Liberal representatives. The challenge for the party is to make sure it's an open, fair nomination process without hindrance or impediment and that everyone is treated fairly," says Bertschi.

As for his own chances, Bertschi is hopeful the hundreds of hours he's invested in the community and in carrying the Liberal Party colours over the past five years will yield dividends when it comes time for the local party members to chose a candidate.

"I'm cautiously optimistic and I'm hopeful it will," says Bertschi. "I've dedicated almost every weekend for the past five years and several nights a week to the community and to the party, whether it's active political involvement in helping to raise the party's profile in the riding, or building up the local war chest, I've been tireless in everything I can."

"I've been tireless in working in the community, living in the community, running in the community and supporting the community and the people who live here, and when it comes to that component I cannot imagine the other candidates putting in the leg work in understanding the community as well as I have. Having said that, I never take anything for granted and never take anyone for granted. And I plan to continue to work hard right up until the nomination meeting."

All of which is shaping up for an exciting conclusion. Two big questions still remain to be answered, however, the first is whether or not there will be a third candidate in the nominations race -- former Liberal MP Gar Knutsen is still waiting for to be green-lighted by the party -- and the second is when the actual nomination meeting will take place?

With the provincial election causing everything to be put on hold, Bertschi and Leslie are both hoping the meeting will be held after June 12 when Ontarians head to the polls, and before July 1 when most them will be heading to their cottages.

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

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