Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi is no Justin Trudeau, and he hastened to remind the media of that Tuesday during a brief interview at a North Kamloops café.
Surrounded by about six party faithful, including staff — contrasting with the 600 who turned out Monday night for Trudeau's TRU appearance — Bertschi offered himself as equal to the challenge of contesting the Liberal leadership and seeking support from 100,000 member votes.
"I believe Justin is a fine young man," he said. "I believe he brings a lot of attention to the race."
But "real-life experiences count," Bertschi added, citing his background as a self-made trial lawyer building a successful practice, a Crown attorney, a human rights prosecutor and a lifelong Liberal party volunteer.
At 53, Bertschi is a lot older than Trudeau and presents himself, in contrast, as a political outsider of humble origins. He ran for office unsuccessfully in the 2011 federal election.
"I think it's hard to swallow when people say they want to represent the middle class," he said, recalling his childhood as a son of a single, working mother.
"It's all about giving Canadians a clear alternative, a balanced approach. If you're not meeting with people, you can't listen to them."
Bertschi is one of nine candidates hoping to become the leader who can pull the Liberals out of the ditch, where the once-dominant political force has been since it was reduced to third-party status two years ago. In terms of popularity, the party isn't performing as poorly as electoral results suggest; a federal polling average indicates a six-point spread between the three parties.
He was asked how the party might revive Western support, which has languished since the early days of Trudeau the elder.
The party establishment has not listened to people's needs, he said.
"There's been a top-down approach to government and that has to change."
Canada shouldn't be exporting raw natural resources and government should instead be encouraging value-added manufacturing through incentives, he added.
Bertschi is the second of four Liberal candidates to visit this week. Talk at Sunday's inaugural debate in Vancouver turned to an old topic: Forming an alliance of the centre-left to defeat the Harper Conservatives.
"Not on my watch," he said of any possible merger with the NDP. The time to form alliances is before elections, not after them, he added.
"We're running for office for all Canadians and it doesn't matter where you're coming from. Liberalism is all about providing a strong economy so that everybody has the resources to reach their full potential."
Lester Pearson remains Bertschi's favourite prime minister because he stuck to his principles and wasn't swayed by naysayers.
"If you're serious about reducing government waste, lead by example," he said, implying that the Harper government should have looked first to politicians' pensions before tightening Old Age Pension eligibility rules.