Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thought for the day: MPs as mere voting proxies

Image: Pierre-Luc Dusseault, a 19-year-old student of applied politics at the Universite de Sherbrooke, now becomes the youngest member of Parliament in Canadian history.

It really matters not that this newly minted NDP MP is 19 and a student enrolled at university, since our democracy has been degraded by the party system to the point where MPs aren't actually MPs in the true sense of the word. They are mere (voting) proxies that are voted in the hands of their party's leaders. In this case, any way that Jack and Mulcair want to vote this kid's proxy.

NDP's gang of rookies includes 4 McGill students, 19-year-old, Vegas visitor

By: Jonathan Montpetit and Andy Blatchford,
The Canadian Press

The new MPs, many who are political newbies, beat the odds and surprisingly won their ridings for the New Democrats in an unprecedented sweep for the party, mainly in Quebec. Top from left: Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne-Blainville) and Tyrone Benskin (Jeanne-Le Ber); bottom from left: Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinonge) and Matthew Dube (Chambly-Borduas).

The new MPs, many who are political newbies, beat the odds and surprisingly won their ridings for the New Democrats in an unprecedented sweep for the party, mainly in Quebec. Top from left: Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne-Blainville) and Tyrone Benskin (Jeanne-Le Ber); bottom from left: Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinonge) and Matthew Dube (Chambly-Borduas). (POSTMEDIA NEWS)

MONTREAL - The NDP caucus from Quebec is an eclectic bunch, to say the least.

It includes the youngest-ever MP, four McGill University students, an ex-Liberal MP, and a globe-trotting diplomat who unseated Gilles Duceppe in his own riding.

Oh, yeah, and the karate-instructing, federal policy researcher who chopped Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon down to size.

That doesn't even include a woman whose questionable French and campaign vacation to Las Vegas raised doubts about the worthiness of the party's Quebec team.

Thomas Mulcair, the party's Quebec lieutenant, sought to reassure Quebecers on Tuesday about the quality of the 58 NDP MPs the province elected the night before.

Mulcair was surrounded at a news conference by several of the MPs, but noticeably absent was Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the assistant manager of a bar in Ottawa who won a comfortable victory in Berthier-Maskinonge. The riding is 98 per cent francophone.

"Ms. Brosseau does not speak a French at a level we would expect for a riding like Berthier-Maskinonge," Mulcair said.

"But I am making a personal promise, we will help organize her office, we will give her all the help that's needed."

Mulcair guaranteed Brosseau's French would improve dramatically over the next four years.

"We will ensure that if ever there are things that need to be taken over by the party, or by me personally, I will be there," he added.

Brosseau has been invisible in the last few weeks as the media try to contact her to assess her French and talk to her about her trip to Sin City.

The NDP said Brosseau, who returned from Vegas last week, wasn't in the riding on election day and wouldn't immediately be available for interviews.

She won with a very healthy 6,000 majority over the riding's Bloc incumbent.

Quebecers woke up Tuesday to a radically altered political landscape, one dominated by rookie NDP MPs instead of the usual Bloc Quebecois veterans.

The NDP's startling rise was best summed up in Tuesday's headline on the website of McGill University's daily newspaper: Four McGill Students Elected to Parliament.

Another university student, a 19-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que., was not only voting in his first election but also became the youngest person ever elected to Canada's House of Commons.

Pierre-Luc Dusseault is a self-described political junkie who has been to Ottawa and visited the House of Commons. He also admits to watching a lot of CPAC, the TV channel that broadcasts parliamentary proceedings.

"I know the game," said a confident-sounding Dusseault, who turns 20 on May 31.

Many of the neophytes admitted to having low expectations when the writ was dropped.

Yet they were among dozens of unlikely Quebec NDP candidates who won Monday as the party's caucus in the province skyrocketed to 58 from one. Many will bring impressive backgrounds into Parliament.

The Quebec caucus will also feature Romeo Saganash, former deputy grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees; Francoise Boivin, an ex-Liberal MP; and Helene Laverdiere, who was posted for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Washington, Senegal and Chile.

Laverdiere earned some of the loudest cheers at the NDP rally Monday night when TV screens flashed that she had knocked off Duceppe in Montreal's Laurier-Sainte-Marie.

She seemed stunned to have pulled off the upset, but admitted she had an inkling it could happen.

"A month ago it was a dream," she said.

"(Then), a few weeks ago seeing how people were listening to what we had to say, we started to think, 'Well, maybe the dream will come true.' "

Other new faces will include Mathieu Ravignat, a volunteer karate teacher who knocked off Cannon in Pontiac.

Tyrone Benskin, another surprise NDP winner, said he was asked all night Monday about the impact of so many fresh faces in the House of Commons.

"Yes, there are newcomers, there are always newcomers to any party," said Benskin, 52, a veteran actor, director and musician.

"All these people are very good at what they did in their private lives and they're bringing that experience."

In Toronto on Tuesday, NDP Leader Jack Layton was peppered with media questions about his inexperienced team.

"Yes, we have some young people," he replied. "But you know young people got involved in this election in an unprecedented way. I think it was very exciting.

"And the fact that some of these young people have now been chosen . . . I think we should see that as something to celebrate — not something to criticize."

Benskin himself was singled out during the campaign by Duceppe for not being at ease in French.

Other new faces, like MP Alexandre Boulerice of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, couldn't believe what had happened.

"Am I surprised? Of course," said the elated father of four shortly after beating Bloc incumbent Bernard Bigras.

"This is not a wave, this is a tsunami — a political earthquake."

Boulerice, a communications adviser for the Quebec division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, lost to Bigras by more than 17,000 votes in the 2008 election.

This campaign started off much the same way as 2008 for him, as people told him on the street he was a nice guy who would never win.

That was until Easter weekend, when families talked politics, he said.

In the last two weeks of the campaign, he was flooded with emails from supporters asking how they could help, where they could get a sign for their balcony and how they could get themselves an NDP button.

The buttons disappeared so fast that Boulerice didn't even have one to wear for election night.

"Because every time we had a button on, people were asking, "Can I have it?' " Boulerice said.

"So (there's) a back order on buttons."


Dr Mike said...

Wow , does this ever sound familiar

In the Bob Rae sweep here in Ontario in 2009 , the man elected in our riding was Peter North a building contractor. He was immediately appointed Minister of Tourism & Recreation. He went from no experience to cabinet minister all in one fell swoop.

He eventually got caught with his pants down having "unconsummated" sex with a woman to whom he had promised a job.

He was booted from the party & crossed to the PC party but forgot to tell the PCs.

This is what happens when newbees get caught up in a "surge".

Only bad things will come of this as well.

Dr Mike Popovich

Anonymous said...

They are voting proxies in the true sence of the word. Yet , if they do not provide good service in their riding they are gone. It is not just one job but two.

Anonymous said...

If this 19 year old lasts 6 years as an MP he will have a pension courtesy of you and me.

A life long pension at age 25 wow.


Brent Fullard said...

'"Unconsummated" sex?' is that like "not inhaling"?

Just proves that politicians can't do anything right!

crf said...

How is the NDP going to represent Quebec?

Stephen Harper is going to enact policies that will be reviled in Quebec. The NDP will agree with Quebec that they don't like those policies either. But the NDP will be unable to do anything about changing them.

If Quebec doesn't like the direction of politics in Canada, it has learned that there is no hope at all of seeing either a federalist party or the BQ change those policies. It set aside separatism this election in order to de-elect as many Conservatives as possible! Historic. And it was a total failure in its aims of seeing neo-conservatism fail.

The only option open to Quebec for change, is separation. I Expect it occur, within a decade, because Quebec is fundamentally at odds with everything about King Stephen the first. They fought a quiet revolution in Quebec, lets not forget, to rid their society of Steve's paternalistic, corrupt and authoritarian ideology.

People are profoundly misreading this election as a death-knell for separatism.

It's going to be the first chapter in a rapidly unfolding series of political events, that will see Quebec separate, and the rest of Canada become Harperstan: the most right-wing country in the western world.