Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Always expect the unexpected
It's inevitable that a party suddenly surging in the polls is going to get a lot more attention. And some of the things parties can get away with when they're the fourth party in Parliament won't stand up to much scrutiny when they are making a play at least for Stornoway if not 24 Sussex itself.
Nobody really saw this so called "orange crush" coming. Apparently not even the NDP.
At least as far as some of their candidates are concerned. Most parties run candidates they know have no chance of ever winning.
But all of a sudden there is a lot of attention being paid to some NDP candidates who six weeks ago were barely more than names on the ballot.
Which is why Ruth Ellen Brosseau probably thought she could easily get away with sneaking off to Las Vegas for a holiday the week before Election Day. Brosseau, running in a Quebec riding north of Montreal, is at least the second NDP candidate in this campaign to be holidaying rather than door knocking. In the first week, Ajax-Pickering NDP candidate Jim Koppens was beaching it up in the Caribbean.
The NDP said both had booked their vacations prior to the campaign but it really doesn't say a lot for the party or them if they're not willing to set aside a cheap holiday for voters.
Koppens isn't truly in line for a seat in the House of Commons. But with the NDP surging into first place in Quebec and some pollsters predicting they could win more than half the 75 seats up for grabs, Brosseau just might be, even though she clearly doesn't even live there. She is a bartender at a pub on the campus of Carleton University. In Ottawa. Which is three hours away from the riding she's running in. According to a story in the Globe and Mail today, her boss at the pub didn't even know she was running in the election and said until this week she had been coming to work. Apparently running for office wasn't a big enough deal to her to tell any of her coworkers about it or take time off to actually campaign.
It is not unheard of for Quebec voters to elect completely unexpected people to office. In the 2007 provincial election, a surge by the third-place Action Democratique party pushed the Parti Quebecois into third place, and kept the Liberals to a minority government. The ADQ went from 5 seats (and not even official party status in the National Assembly) to 41 and status as the official opposition, despite having far less money and far fewer on-the-ground resources to get out the vote. There were numerous candidates who never expected to be elected.
That election was also called a "seismic shift" in Quebec, the same term being used by many pollsters and pundits for what is happening in the federal election right now. It didn't last long and the bloom left the ADQ rose a year later in another provincial election. But it still happened.
Unless there is some unprecedented last minute collapse of the NDP vote in Quebec, the party is going to have its best showing ever in the province. When Thomas Mulcair won his Montreal seat in 2008 it was the first time the NDP had ever elected an MP in a general election. Only Mulcair and one other Quebec NDP MP has ever sat in the House of Commons, both elected before 2008 in byelections. Even a few weeks ago Mulcair was suggesting the party would win more seats but was only mentioning three or four real possibilities.
I kind of hope someone has called Brosseau in Vegas to suggest she might want to shop for a few new business suits just in case. The NDP finished a distant fourth in her riding in 2008. But that was when the NDP had 12 per cent of the popular vote and finished in fourth place behind the Bloc, Liberals and Conservatives. Right now they are polling around where the Bloc Quebecois polled in 2008 -- 38 per cent.
She just may find herself working in Ottawa in a whole new job next week.
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About Mia Rabson
Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.
Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.
She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.
Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.
Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.
In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.
She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.
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