Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NDP newcomer surfaces

Visits her riding for the first time

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LOUISEVILLE, Que. -- Elusive NDP rookie Ruth Ellen Brosseau finally visited the Quebec riding she will represent in the House of Commons and, while she struggled a bit with the local language, she appeared to be making new friends.

A paparazzi-style crush of journalists was there and curious locals greeted the new MP. Afterwards some of the residents had nice things to say about the initial encounter with their new representative in Parliament.

It was locals' first chance to meet a rookie politician who had triumphed, without any discernible effort, and against seemingly insurmountable odds: She lived 300 kms away and worked at a pub in Ontario, she vacationed in Las Vegas during the election, had never set foot in her constituency, and supposedly didn't speak much French.

After the election Brosseau, 27, remained out of sight as the party said it would prepare her for public exposure by giving her some intensive French lessons. She has now begun doing interviews, grasping for words and occasionally stumbling, but always speaking French.

On Wednesday, she made a number of appearances in the riding -- accompanied by the NDP's Quebec lieutenant, Thomas Mulcair.

"Everyone is very nice," she said in curt, passable French before visiting the municipal library in the rural community of St-Justin.

"I'm very excited." Then, she added in English: "I'm very happy to be here."

Earlier, Brosseau was met by a crowd of journalists and locals as she descended the front steps of Louiseville town hall.

According to participants in one meeting, she insisted on struggling along in the language of her constituents -- speaking in French even when they addressed her in English.

"It's not bad -- she has an accent but at least she speaks French," said another resident, Daniel Ringuette.

He said he's just happy she finally visited the riding: "I even invited her to come play tennis with us," he said.

The perpetually smiling MP appeared to have already won over a few other people in town. One truck honked as it passed her on Louiseville's main drag.

The reaction from area officials was equally generous.

"She speaks French so well, it's surprising," said Louiseville mayor Guy Richard, after their meeting. "I think we will have a very good MP."

Mulcair appeared to run interference for his new protege over the course of the day. He rushed her away at the sight of the first national television camera crew.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Jack Layton was greeted like a rock star Wednesday, delivering his first major speech since the federal election to thousands of union delegates at the Canadian Labour Congress convention in Vancouver.

After entering the cavernous convention hall to pounding music and cheering supporters wearing orange scarves, Layton called on the provinces to work with the NDP in pushing for improved public pensions.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2011 A8

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