Monday, December 08, 2014

Why I have no time for David Bertschi’s complaints

I’ve tried to hold my tongue through David Bertschi’s dramatic performances through the nomination process, but after his conduct at the Ottawa-Orleans nomination on the weekend, enough is enough.

I’m the first person to be up in arms with regards to nomination shenanigans or interference from the centre. I’m a supporter of open nominations – it was a key part of Deborah Coyne’s democratic reform platform during the leadership campaign, and I was glad to see Justin Trudeau adopt a similar position shortly after we released ours.

I think everyone – if they’re being honest with themselves anyway – knew that there would always be an asterix for open nominations when the pledge was reaffirmed by the leader for this nomination cycle. A certain threshold of rules would need to be met by all candidates seeking a nomination, from a commitment to Liberal values (see supporting the right to choose) to a background check, and so on.

For the former leadership candidates seeking a nomination (including from 2006) there were additional rules. I have some insight into this, as I managed Deborah’s leadership campaign. Those carrying leadership debt were required to submit a debt repayment plan and schedule, and report regularly on their progress to the party. They were informed that their greenlighting was provisional, and could be revoked at any time if they didn’t maintain satisfactory progress.

This applied to all leadership candidates carrying leadership debt from recent campaigns, from Coyne and Bertschi and George Takach, to caucus members like Marc Garneau and Hedy Fry. The rules were clear and known to all.

The rules were also clear during the leadership campaign with regards to the amount of debt campaigns were allowed to carry, both in loans and in accounts payable. A financial filing was due regularly to the party for compliance purposes and, if the levels were violated, a range of sanctions were available, up to and including expulsion from the leadership race. Again, the rules were clear and known to all.

And it appears to me that Mr. Bertschi was unable or unwilling to follow rules, whether during the leadership campaign or during the nomination process.

Bertschi withdrew from the leadership campaign in a flourish, after hemorrhaging staff and volunteers, just before he was facing sanction from the party and possible expulsion from the race for violating those debt limits – post-race filings with Elections Canada confirm his non-compliance. This after making a virtue of having promised a debt-free campaign.

Nevertheless, he was provisionally green-lit by the party to seek the nomination in Ottawa-Orleans. Like every other leadership candidate carrying debt, he had to submit and follow a repayment plan. And once again, he couldn’t follow the rules. And so he faced the consequences.

Now, the current underlying all of this, of course, is the party centre’s favoured candidate for Ottawa-Orleans, Andrew Leslie – the former general was acclaimed this weekend following Bertschi’s expulsion.

Let’s be frank. Did the powers that be want Leslie? Obviously. Were they going to use the levers available to them to help make that happen? Most definitely.

Here’s the thing, though: Bertschi made it easy on them. No shenanigans were necessary. By failing to comply with the clearly stated rules, rules which applied to all (and the others managed to comply with), Bertschi made it easy for the party to remove him from the race completely by the book. No shenanigans were necessary, as Bertschi was the author of his own demise.

I might still be able to muster a measure of sympathy for him – being denied a dream you’ve long worked for is incredibly difficult – were it not for the arrogance with which he has conducted himself through this process. Attacking other Liberals, threatening lawsuits, his supporters disrupting meetings, heckling, disrespecting the Canadian flag. Bertschi isn’t about the Liberal Party; he’s about David Bertschi. And I have no time for people like that.

If Bertschi had followed the rules, he would have challenged Leslie this past weekend, and who knows what would have happened. The party’s pick doesn’t always win – see Don Valley North. Superior organization will take the day. Instead, he was the author of his own demise, and seems determined to light the bridge aflame behind him.


Don’t let the door, etc.

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4 comments:

bazie said...

Agreed. Part of the problem I've been pretty critical about on my blog with regards to campaign debt is that there was a lot of pressure (worse from the NDP than the Liberals) shortly after the leadership election to retire the debt. Instead of using the new opportunity of a large number of new signups motivated and following given a new leadership campaign, the mass emails were being taken up on retiring each of the candidates debts. It is a huge squandering of an opportunity.

There SHOULD be relatively stringent rules about debt repayment, and further it should be up to the individuals with very heavy restriction on the use of country wide emails to NDP/Liberal supports for the purposes of retiring the debt. And if Bertschi can't manage to do that, he needs to stop huffing and puffing that it is undemocratic.

bazie said...

Agreed. Part of the problem I've been pretty critical about on my blog with regards to campaign debt is that there was a lot of pressure (worse from the NDP than the Liberals) shortly after the leadership election to retire the debt. Instead of using the new opportunity of a large number of new signups motivated and following given a new leadership campaign, the mass emails were being taken up on retiring each of the candidates debts. It is a huge squandering of an opportunity.

There SHOULD be relatively stringent rules about debt repayment, and further it should be up to the individuals with very heavy restriction on the use of country wide emails to NDP/Liberal supports for the purposes of retiring the debt. And if Bertschi can't manage to do that, he needs to stop huffing and puffing that it is undemocratic.

The Mound of Sound said...

Bertschi comes across as a bit of a thug. Your party is well rid of him.

Tristan Ahern said...

Here is why you are completely wrong in your assessment. Your entire argument hinges upon your claim that David broke the rules set by the LPC and thus his failure caused his demise. This assumption is wrong and therefore your argument crumbles. Just because the LPC leaked to the press the reasons why Mr. Bertschi's green light status was revoked does not make these reasons factual. Let's look at the facts:

1- David was approved as a candidate contingent upon him repaying his leadership debt before the next election based on an agreed schedule.
2- By November Mr. Bertschi was well ahead of Mr. Leslie in terms of membership sales, which normally correlate with votes at nomination meetings. This means that Mr. Bertschi would have beat Mr. Leslie by about ~20% at the meeting, something that would have been quite embarrassing for the LPC.
3- It was upon this realization that the LPC acted and revoked his status, citing two reasons: (1) Mr. Bertschi's level of debt was unacceptably high and; (2) Mr. Bertschi failed to disclose current litigation that might damage the reputation of the party.
4- Both these reasons are false. With regards to the first reason, Mr. Bertschi had paid off $100,000 of his debt well ahead of the schedule agreed upon by the LPC and only has $50,000 remaining. Thus it cannot be considered unacceptably high given that he was ahead of payment plan approved by the LPC. With regards to the second reason, the litigation they were referring to was a defamation suit against a rag American tabloid website that would not have embarrassed the party and in fact had been abandoned 8 months prior. The green light nomination forms do not ask if you had any past litigation, only current.

Therefore, it can easily be seen that the reasons given by the LPC were false, making your entire argument false. In fact, Mr. Bertschi has gone so far as to give the LPC a Notice of Libel because of the lies that they spread to the media.

What we can conclude from these facts is that the LPC was fearful that their preferred candidate was going to lose and lied to Canadians to force a candidate out undemocratically.

Even though this is just a blog, I implore you to critically reason through things before writing conclusions. If you don't, your arguments can so easily be torn apart. It's easy to blame the person who's stirring the pot, but sometimes we have to critically assess the establishment and realize that some things are fundamentally wrong. You may support the LPC, as I do, but they do not always act in the interest of Canadians. All Mr. Bertschi is doing is fighting for the rights of Canadians to have a voice, after the LPC denied them that right. It seems like so many people are complacent to this deterioration of true representation and leadership, because they view it as politics as usual. At least someone is standing up and saying, "I've had enough".