We’re right to be skeptical about young NDP MPs - Macleans.ca

We’re right to be skeptical about young NDP MPs

And please, stop calling it ‘ageism’


When I was 19 and off university for the summer, I ended up spending most of my working time behind a bar. Though it wasn’t a job of rigorous expectations, I undoubtedly lucked out by being in the right place at the right time. One of the recipients of my hurried CV was a little Toronto restaurant that happened to be losing its only front-of-house employee the same day I dropped off my resume. I fumbled my way through an interview that afternoon: “Hmm…” the owner said, scanning my hospitality-weak resume. “I really would like someone with a bit more experience…” But she gave me the job anyway (probably out of sheer desperation) and that summer I earned every penny of my server’s minimum wage.

Only now do I realize that my composure during the interview was totally to my own detriment. When the owner was mulling over her desire to have someone with more experience, I really should have shouted “Ageist!” and stormed off angrily, possibly flailing.

After all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do now that pundits are expressing skepticism about our brand new under-30 MPs? The youngest is 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault, a Université de Sherbrooke political science student who became Canada’s youngest ever MP last week after winning his Sherbrooke riding. And of course, along with six or so other 20-somethings, there’s Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who we all now know as the non-French-speaking assistant pub manager who won over her Francophone riding despite vacationing is Las Vegas during the campaign.

Many of these new MPs were clearly just lending their names to the NDP in ridings that were almost certain to vote Bloc. So, naturally, people are questioning their ability to perform well in their new unexpected, perhaps unwanted positions. And, also naturally, reactionaries have labeled that questioning with that nasty A-word. Then there are those, perhaps more rational than the ageist alarmists, genuinely asking why these young MPs are facing more scrutiny than rookie MPs with experience in other fields.

To me, the reason seems obvious. A rookie MP coming from a business background brings with her knowledge about corporate affairs and economics. A farmer new to politics brings with him agricultural insight and perspectives on climate change. Yes, they speak for different communities, but also bring valuable, diverse experiences to the House of Commons. Unfortunately, a 19-year-old just doesn’t have that wealth of life experience to draw on.

That’s not to say, however, that a young MP can’t serve his or her constituents well. Indeed, I hope that is the case. But in the meantime, we’re justified in keeping a raised eyebrow, at least until these young MPs fill up their resumes.


We’re right to be skeptical about young NDP MPs

  1. Going from your parent’s home, to University, then handed a well-paying job doesn’t do much to build character. Someone should actually live in the world and have experience taking care of themselves before they’re given such opportunities.

  2. …. it’s time for this country to start listening and taking notice to our youth… too many elections are won by fat old curmudgeons (like me) with old money and time on their hands.

    … I see these victories as a breath of fresh air… young Canadians who also have issues… like the cost of education and tuitions…

    The Middle East is in turmoil with a revolution driven by young under 35 professionals; educated men and women who denouncing the old guard of elitism and privilege and under our democratic system they can do something about it.

    …the horrors of the thought of an 18 year old university student and 27 year old single mum being an MP..

    sorry but there is change happening in Canada too.

    • Don’t equate a social uprising against a totalitarian regime with representing Canadians in Parliament.

      But still, I like the fact that you, a self-described “old curmudgeon”, is more accepting of these young MPs than I, a 25 year old with nothing more than despise for how badly the previous generations have screwed up our society.

  3. They might end up earning every cent of their wage too. It’ll take some time to see.

  4. If they are old enough to hold the power to vote, they are old enough to hold office.

  5. You conservatives should stop whining.

    I am proud of Quebec. Now the majority can sit across from these kids and think about their future, and what can happen to them if they try to tie us into a two-party shell game.

    If their is outrage from the media, it is because the establishment is threatend.

    • *there

  6. As we all know, what has happened is the product of very peculiar circumstances that occur now and again in Canadian politics. It doesn’t mean the system is broken.

    What it does mean is that we’re all pretty envious of these guys’ new jobs. I wonder if that’s what’s motivating a lot of the whining.

  7. “That’s not to say, however, that a young MP can’t serve his or her constituents well.”

    Ok, so what’s the problem? That’s their job, after all.

  8. NDP will bankrupt Canada and tax us to hyper inflation.

    • Thus spoken by a supporter of the party who’s economic big thinkers denied that there was any kind of economic melt down as late as Christmas 2008 – after the world’s economy was in the shitter.

  9. I think for once we have a Parliament that reflects a federal Canada regionally and demographically. At the University of Toronto, the Governing Council reserves six elected spots for students.


    Because the voice of youth is very important. Now, we have young adults just entering Parliament, but still – very important.

    This time around, we have many First Nations participants in Government, and we have Québec back in the game – we have Elders, we have Adults, we have Youth.

    We have a good Parliament, which reflects the Social Capitalist stance of Canada.

    I am, for once, satisfied. Let’s give our new Parliament a chance.

    • .
      Yes, with the NDP present, some voice for social capitalism is represented, I agree.

      I just wish it had have been greater. The present majority gives too great a voice to greed-capitalism, the dark ideology of Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, and the opening pages of any first year econ book: supply-demand equilibria as ‘feature’, not a bug.

      I’m afraid the young and impressionable Mr. Harper was completely and permanently confused by those pages, but hopefully Mr. Layton can shed some light on the issue.

  10. .
    Because the current government is so qualitatively different from previous ones (Liberal or Conservative) experience is not really an issue. However, a very serious attitude, more than previous, is needed to cope with a majority that is more akin to an app or a cold-blooded machine, than an administration.

    Part of the NDP’s ‘boot-camp’ as they call it should include weekly screenings of Terminator 1, and review of Mr. Harper’s systematic and very public strangling of Helena Guergis, and the PR engine which made that deed seem praiseworthy even before otherwise just-minded liberal folk.

  11. One thing that consistently annoys me about the coverage of Mme Brosseau’s election is that people are directing so much flak at her personally. She is blamed for taking a vacation, blamed for not speaking French, blamed for not going to the riding…

    Yet it seems that the media has a short memory – all of these things were reported several days in advance of the election. It was all public knowledge available to the voters of her riding, yet they still voted for her, giving her a 6,000-vote majority. It was all perfectly out in the open, nobody was hiding anything, and there was no secret conspiracy to insult the national pride of Quebec. If you want to whinge about anyone, whinge about the voters who elected her.

    If you’re still not happy, then that’s just democracy for you – deal with it.

  12. There are other qualities that being “inexperienced” in the realm of politics brings–like audacity, honesty, and zeal. Many of us are more skeptical of certain Conservative M.P.s and their competency (or lack thereof) in certain cabinet positions. Why won’t you cover that?

  13. Quebec’s one night stand with the #NDP candidates is looking more and more foolish. It makes Quebec look bad and it makes the NDP look like the greedy amateurs they truly are. This is a farce. Made in Quebec Only in Quebec. Stay Classy!

    • why, oh why do I think you had this opinion walking in, Julie …. were you a frequent supporter of the BQ? perhaps some kind of socialist? (NDP is far from being socialist, but that is the Conservative meme.)

  14. While many comments about these MPs have been appropriately skeptical, many have also been derisive and condescending.

    It should also be noted that the new MPs shouldn’t just be considered in a vacuum, they should be judged against their alternatives. Even if they are flawed, they represent far more possibility than the Bloc MPs they replace. It isn’t an ideal situation, but they’re the indeed the best option that was reasonably available.

  15. She may very well be confident and capable of doing the job. The biggest issue that people should be questioning is whether or not the seriousness in which she approached the initial stages of acquiring the “new job” dictate whether or not she should be actually allowed to have the job.

    If that had been a job interview process… I don’t know that I or any other manager would have hired her.

    The fact that her French isn’t necessarily at a level suited for the riding in which she ran or the fact that she actually doesn’t live in the riding in which she won is troubling as well. This undermines the entire point the NDP were trying to make Canadians aware of from the beginning: democratic electoral reform. This includes and (must) encourage young refreshing faces to be actively involved.

    Actively involved…

    So, since her win, she has been silenced by the party that proclaims (and asked the Harper Govt.) to be far more “open” so as to ensure she says the right thing. Her education is going to get really interesting in the coming weeks.

    But I only have one question for her… DO YOU REALLY WANT THE JOB? Because I don’t think you do, Miss Brosseau. And I want to remind you that there are thousands of people that now depend on you to not only want your job but need you to want better for them.


  16. The Tories also have young MP’s. No whining about them from the media.

    Articles like this are hit pieces and nothing less. I would rather have an enthusiastic young MP than an arrogant jaded cynical one like the one I do have.

    Who was a vacuum cleaner salesman in a previous life.

    But, he’s a Tory, so apparently that’s ok.

    • I don’t think it’s the youth of the candidates that is so disconcerting but the lack of experience in any relevent field and and sacrificial lamb qualities of these men and women who were clearly only “running” (no running by the pool of the Bellagio!!) so the NDP could claim to be running a national campaign.

  17. I’m disturbed that partisanship is so deeply entrenched that if one is skeptical, as this author and some commenters rightly are, it’s assumed that they’re political opponents. As I wrote in my blog, http://bit.ly/ixDeOh , I’ve been an NDP voter all my life and am disappointed with this. To respond to some of the comments:

    Why the assumption that young = enthusiastic , old = “arrogant jaded cynical”. The whole social scientific debate about youth revolves around their being disengaged in politics, cynical about politics and politicians… seniors vote in, as you know, very high numbers. If any ‘class’ is enthusiastic about politics, as a general rule, it’s the old, not the young.

    I don’t know how you define arrogance, but to me, it’s the height of arrogance to think yourself qualified and take a job for which you have no experience, accomplishments, etc., and for which you thought so little of as to not campaign or even visit the constituency.

    I’m obviously not against the idea of ‘new blood’. I’m happy, for instance, that in Burnaby-Douglas, Kennedy Stewart, a political science professor, was elected. In my own riding, Jinny Sims, former head of the BCTF, was elected. As the blogger wrote, we want to have farmers, businesspeople, etc. represented. That’s what new blood is. People seem to not understand that amateurism, especially of the extreme kind evident here, enables elites to ignore and run roughshod over Parliament. Do you really think any of these young MPs with no credentials or gravitas to their name have any ability to stand up to the government? They’re going to be laughed out of court. It plays right into Harper’s hands.

  18. WTF, I will let you in on something, most economists don’t have a clue how the economy works. They mostly bull sh-t it and most farmers are as stupid as a bag of hammers. You give far too much respect to a person planting his rear end on this planet longer. I speak from experience, people in office have no clue and often take advise from the janitor who comes to the office to empty the garbage.

  19. In 1984, a 23 year old was elected in a long-shot riding as part of the Conservative sweep. I don’t recall anyone at the time trying to make hay about Jean Charest’s fitness for public office.

    A couple of elections ago, a 25 year old waiter managed to defeat a 30 year Member of Parliament – and there wasn’t even a sweep going on that election. Word is that Andrew Scheer is the front runner to be Speaker of the House of Commons.

    When hiring one person for one job, I might well choose to sacrifice enthusiasm for experience. And I certainly wouldn’t want to see a House of Commons filled to the brim with nothing but brash teenagers and 20-somethings.

    But to see a handful of very young MPs – and safely ensconsed on the Opposition benches no less – is only a slight to democracy if your democracy demands that young people be seen and not heard. That is ageism of the ugliest sort.

    The Canadian cemetaries in Normandy are full of teenagers and 20 somethings. Of the 155 soldiers lost in Afghanistan, fully 105 were 30 or younger.

    If those 20 somethings are qualified to die for our country, then surely they are qualified to sit in its Parliament.

  20. F the NDP. Death to socialism.

  21. I don’t have much to add other than to echo the Malcolm’s comment about our military dead. Put bluntly, if a 19-year-old with no “life experience” can be sent to die on foreign soil, another one is eminently capable of serving in the House of Commons. I find the condescending tone of articles such as this largely unjustified and petty.

  22. There were two William Pitts who served in the position that is now known as Prime Minister of the UK. The younger Mr. Pitt served served almost 20 years in this position. He was 24 when he his stint began. He dealt with the end of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the early Napoleonic wars, so as a young MP here had his plate full.There may be future Prime Minister anong these young MPs but failing such greatness, it is likely that any or all of them will be as good or better that their older and more jadedly experienced cohorts.

  23. This just shows that at the very least people have to live in the riding they’re running in for a period of 5 years minimum to be able to run. This is just absurd, some didn’t even visit their riding…