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Outsider wants in: Alex Burton makes Liberal party leadership bid

Alex Burton says it’s time to rebuild the Liberal brand across Canada. The British Columbia lawyer thinks he’s the man to get the job done, despite never having served in public office.
Liberal leadership hopeful Alex Burton is bringng his message of change to the cities between the cities. (Leith Dunick,

Alex Burton says it’s time to rebuild the Liberal brand across Canada.

The British Columbia lawyer thinks he’s the man to get the job done, despite never having served in public office. The 44-year-old is on a cross-country trek to show Canadians why Liberals need an alternative to the Trudeau brand name leading a party decimated by the Conservatives and NDP in the 2011 general election, reduced to third-party status for the first time in history.

Burton, president of the Vancouver Kingsway riding association, said the party must prove itself all over again to the entire country, not just pockets in the east.

His platform includes building a just and secure society, democratic reform, establishing Canada’s place in the world, building a country of opportunity and, most importantly, revitalizing and re-energizing the Canadian economy.

Being an outsider to Ottawa’s political machine shouldn’t hurt his chances, Burton said on Friday, during a brief stop in Thunder Bay to promote his candidacy.

“I don’t think Canadians believe that the criteria for being a politician should be being a politician,” Burton said.

“People talk about not wanting career politicians all the time. If we’re going to bring new voices and new approaches to Ottawa, there has to be avenues to do that. Why am I doing this? I’ve been a Liberal for quite a while now, and there’s been a lot of change in our party over the last several years.”

When he realized a leadership race to replace Michael Ignatieff at the party helm, he said he asked himself who among the suspected front-runners was going to be the voice that sparked party renewal, who would advocate for the things he believed the party needs to do. And who would step up and actually do those things, not just for the party, but for the country as a whole.

“With respect to other names that have been thrown around, I didn’t see that voice. I didn’t see that person who is going to bring the values and the principles and the ideas that I think we must have as Liberals to engage Canadians and rebuild our credibility, quite frankly.”

It’s a fundamental change that’s needed, he said. Yes, Stephane Dion and Ignatieff failed to capture the imagination of voters in recent elections, but it’s much more than that.

“We have to recognize that we need to do better and we need to change the way the Liberal party does business. We need to engage with Canadians in every region of the country,” said Burton, a self-described small ‘L” liberal who holds a law degree from the University of Victoria.

“I am from Western Canada and it’s a place where the Liberals have not fared well. We need to make sure that our ideas, our message, is one that resonates with Western Canadians.”

Burton says he believes in individual hard work, and reaping the reward for that hard work. But he also believes that there is a time and place to help your neighbour when they need it.

He’s not alone in the race. Candidates in the running include Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne, government economist Jonathan Mousley and Justin Trudeau, the Liberal MP and son of former long-time prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

“He’s going to bring attention to the race, and that’s great for the Liberals,” Burton said. “But I’m not going to focus on shiny objects. I’m going to focus on my plan, my vision.”

For more information on Burton, visit his website at

The Liberal leadership convention is scheduled for April 14, 2013 in Ottawa.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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