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.
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