'It was just symbolic' - Macleans.ca

‘It was just symbolic’


NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau gives her first interview.

Initially, she said, she put her name on the ballot as a favour to the party she has long-supported. “It was just symbolic,” she said. “I was approached to put my name on a ballot but I was a supporter of the NDP for many years.”

Watching Monday’s results at the NDP headquarters in Ottawa, Brosseau said she was surprised to see she had handily beat the Bloc incumbent. There was some speculation when Brosseau failed to surface this week that she didn’t want the job, but she said that “never crossed my mind.” “Once I set my mind to something I always stick to it,” she said.


‘It was just symbolic’

  1. Here's a link to the audio of the interview, where they quickly switch to english: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/le-nouvelliste/actualit

    I didn't listen to much of it, as the questions seemed like they were posed for a child, and her answers were so halting.

  2. I'm sure she'll learn to spin like a Polievre very soon.

  3. Four years of this calibre of official opposition is going to be delightful.

    • I'm sure even this best case scenario will cause to feel much ennui.

  4. There'se more to her than has so far met the ear! Imagine, Youth and their vital interest in the medium to long term having a voice in Parliament. Who has a problem with that??

    • Yeah, because "youth" and being "interested" in having a voice in Parliament several years from now is exactly what I look for in a Member of Parliament.

  5. I think that her interview was quite reasonable. She seems to be eminently level-headed – more so than many more experienced and committed politicians, notably including several returning NDP MPs, the deputy leader among them. I expect the NDP to have some problems with its caucus, but it sounds like they will come from elsewhere.

    • Not being bilingual in a 95% francophone riding will be an issue.

      • Well they elected her.

        • Not knowing who the hell she was.

          • I don't think that excuses them. They still voted for someone, not knowing "who the hell" that someone was.

      • That depends on her rate of progress in learning the language. If she works at it and shows improvement, in my experience that will be well-received. Making the effort counts for a lot in Quebec.

  6. I'm no fan of direct democracy but perhaps there should be a mechanism to recall an MP in Canada…

    • Sure, we'll enact that mechanism at the same time that we enact the mechanism to take away the right to free speech of idiots, starting with you, sir.

      • If the hurdle is high enough to prevent abuse, what is your objection to the ability of constituents to recall their representative??

        • Well, I would just point out that there is already a pretty good mechanism for that, called the next election.

          • Full agreement with jonatwitan on this.

            'Recall' is a nonsensical idea….we already have elections every 4-5 years at the outside.

          • Other jurisdictions have recall mechanics, and they still have the next election anyway. Why don't you explain what you think is wrong with it, rather than going off on a lunatic tangent about how everyone that doesn't think the way you do ought in a just universe to be silenced?

          • Lunatic tangent? The main thing that I take issue with is this notion swirling around that these candidates who no one expected to win but did win are in some way illegitimate. For better or worse, the people voted them into the House of Commons, and they will be reevaluated in the next election.

            Also, the Luongo just let in his fourth goal, which makes me very happy.

          • No, you flipped out at the suggestion of recall elections. If such a thing existed for us at the federal level, then it certainly wouldn't be limited to weird placeholder candidates who won accidentally.

          • I agree…in fact, I would argue that that would be a situation in which it should never be used. Abuse is one thing. Simply wanting to pick someone else is quite another.

          • Indeed. And opining that a new MP sounds unimpressive is hardly recall-worthy, should such an option be made available. I have to think there would need to be something pretty large for recall to be considered, though figuring out what that would be, exactly, is not a job I want.

          • Nor a job that anybody should want as it is completely unnecessary.

            If you let your name stand for election, the law assumes that you are serious and that you have the intent of taking the job.

            If you get elected, the job is yours.

            If you do something that you shouldn't, there are all kinds of other means of applying a corrective.

            Recall advocates are simply lacking in the good will necessary for civil society. It is something that can be attained, but it would require making themselves better people instead of focusing on the supposed short comings of others.

          • As I recall, many folks in Emerson's riding thought switching political parties within days of the election was large enough. If the option had been available to them federally, I'm pretty sure they would have pursued it.

          • But crossing the floor on the eve of a confidence motion for the offer of a cabinet post is perfectly OK, I would imagine.

            In a system as large as the Canadian from of parliamentary government, the degree of precision you are asking for would be very costly and, in solving one problem, would probably create 10 more.

            I realize that you are just saying, and all.

          • I wasn't really asking for anything.Just saying, as you acknowledge, that it was talked about in the riding at the time (I don't live in that riding, btw, but am in that province).

            If recall were to be introduced into the federal system, I would think that the question of whether an elected MP could change political parties without going back to the people would be up for discussion, particularly as many people vote for a party rather than (or as much as) the local candidate.

          • Harper practically foamed at the mouth when Stronach did that, and stated it should not be allowed; that if someone chooses to leave a party, they should be required to either sit as an independent until the next election or resign and run again under the other party's banner.

            And then the man who preached ethics and accountability, as his first act as PM, appointed a just-elected Liberal as a cabinet minister (not to mention a senatorial appointment in breach of another promise).

            It was at that moment, after debating where to put my X on election night, that I was certain I had made the right choice in not voting CPC. He proved himself untrustworthy then; he has continued to prove himself so. I won't vote CPC as long as he heads their party.

          • This past election is over, Sir Keith. No need to fulminate about Harper's unsuitability in your eyes. Right now, in the aftermath, we are discussing the ins and outs of electoral policy with a specific focus on the suitability of allowing recall campaigns at the federal level. I brought up Belinda's crossing, as Emerson's & her's actions are one of a piece. I have no interest in opening old wounds, as much as there might be appetite for such a discussion.

            Here is my thesis: There isn't any such thing as "the will of the people". The extent of such a chimera is that people get to choose who will be the one from their riding that will exercise their individual will in parliament.

            Is it desirable that MP have more say and independence of action in the H o C? If it be desirable, then recall campaigns are as undesirable as the worst excesses of party discipline. MP aught be able to vote with their conscience, because that is what they where elected to do. The deal that has been made with the party to gain election can not have absolute sway.

          • Sorry CS; your response came across as yet another instance of someone justifying various egregious acts performed by the CPC with a "But, Mom, they started it!" There were way too many of that type of justification posted on these boards during the election & they really pi$$ me off.

            As to the above post: I agree 100% with your last paragraph; in fact, I said esentially the same thing yesterday in a post on another thread.

            If there were to be some kind of voter recall, it would have to set a high bar and possibly set out a guideline as to the type of action/inaction that would warrant a recall vote. It would likely have to entail some kind of multi-stage procedure of petition; review; referendum; and, if the referendum garnered sufficient votes to prompt a recall, a by-election. Simple "voter regret" would not in and of itself be enough to trigger a recall; under normal circumstances an MP should be allowed a full term to prove their worthiness and be allowed time to grow into their role.

          • Oh, and when I said "If there were to be some kind of voter recall", I'm not necessarily endorsing such a thing; I'm just not rejecting it out of hand.

          • You can think of no broken promise or misconduct so egregious as to empower the citizens with a more immediate remedy?

            Sure, a compelling argument would be that Canada has survived this far without it. But that doesn't make the idea itself bad. The Senate rarely (and the GG or the Sovereign never) slaps around the House of Commons, because they have no business to. But I still feel better that they are there as the last bastion with some in-case-of-emergency-break-glass tools to defend the people. Recall legislation could fit in there somewhere, too.

            And I am not in any way recommending recall of these NDP pylons now set to earn six figures. The electorate brought this embarrassment upon themselves.

            Some jurisdictions do not allow recall to be attempted until the recallee has been in office for a year. Fine, although if we are going to allow it for egregious conduct, I wouldn't disallow it outright, I would just have a far higher hurdle for petitioners (and ultimately voters) to jump early in a mandate, and a less-but-still high hurdle later.

          • Yeah, sure, I actually don't have any theoretical problem with any of that. My statement was specifically a response to the suggestion that these "NDP pylons" need to be tossed, as you rightly perceived. I just Wiki'ed recall election and I see BC allows it provincially. It seems reasonable enough. One could imagine some party getting 155 seats, and suddenly there are a few ridings where the citizens are magically mobilized to recall their MP who sits in the newly formed majority caucus. Of course, this is but one possibility which necessitates, as you say, a particularly high bar.

          • Seems to me that to avoid abuse, that bar needs to be somewhere around 50%+1 of the electors–otherwise it is not consistent with our FPTP system. You could see deadlock as the minority in a riding recall an MP that can win a plurality but not a majority.

          • Actually, the bar should be set at 100% – whatever %voted for the person who's being recalled. This would keep it from being simply folks unhappy at the election result putting us into a deadlock, it would also have to include some of the very folks who supported the candidate in the first place.

          • There are (at least?) two steps in a recall: the petition and the vote.

            I would have to do more research than I care to tonight about existing jurisdictions, but the petition is where I would impose greater hurdles on petitioners at the start of a mandate, lower hurdles after a year or two, and then maybe higher hurdles again as we get closer to the next general election anyways.

            But I would expect 50% plus 1 of valid votes, representing at least X (pick your number, maybe 33.333) % of all eligible voters, in favour of recall, to do the trick. This percentage, at first rumination of mine, should not vary with elapsed time. It should be tough. So tough it may never be used. But it probably is better to have something like that than to not have something like that.

          • It seems that a much better way to avoid abuse is to simply not allow recalls to happen at all.

            I find it odd that a good number of the advocates of recall legislation come from the conservative side of spectrum. The left tends to advocate for PR. I do not know your opinions well enough to discern if your favoured domicile is on the right. The irony is that conservatives have won power by actually campaigning within the bounds of the system as it has been more or less construed since confederation.

            Party campaign politics is such a simple and straight forward system, everyone aught be able to understand how it works.

          • Having carved out your very reasonable position that there is already an effective recall mechanism in the form of the next election, it is a little disappointing to see you opening the door to the admissibility of recall initiatives.

            People elected to any level of government need the time to focus on doing the work of the office that they demonstrated an interest in performing by letting their name stand for election. Recalls in BC have mostly been useless and expensive distractions initiated by petty minded partisans bitter that their party platform found little traction at the last election.

            Recall advocates have not thought through their position, whether through incapacity or indulging a slothful state of mind, to the point of realizing that they are proposing solutions for a problem for which effective solutions already exist.

          • Wait, what? So what're you, an American? Why so supportive of Nashville against a Canadian team? Massive country music fan?

          • Nope, not American. I'm a Flames fan, and so have a natural hatred for the Canucks, which could probably be overcome during a playoff run if it wasn't for the fact that I also dislike so much of their personnel, beginning with Luongo, and their manner of playing the game, which includes dominating my beloved Flames, but also being a bunch of whiners and divers and embellishers.

          • I am an Oilers fan, but when it comes to the cup – I am all about Canada.

            (although you sound like my brother in law – lol)

          • Wasn't that once a Reform hobby-horse. Actually, it was in Stock Day's platform, no?

          • I remember Stockwell promoting voter initiatives (a TERRIBLE idea; see: California); and hence Rick Mercer's initiative to have Stockwell's first name changed to Doris.

            Re: legit cause for voter recalls, I think David Emerson's day-after-election floor crossing is up there. It's also possible that some of these NDP paper candidates could be so manifestly incompetent that they can't properly represent their riding in the House (the MP elect in question better learn French *FAST* or she'll fall into that category IMHO)

          • Thank you for bringing up California. The only reason needed to oppose voter initiatives.

          • BC will soon provide a close-to-home case study of why it's such a bad idea: not only will BC deprive itself of the real benefits of a harmonized sales tax, but it will have to swallow all the administrative costs of adopting and then un-adopting it *AND* have to pay back Ottawa.

            Not sure why direct democracy is such a west-coast thing in North America…

      • I don't favour recall either, but calling stewacide an idiot is a little rich. Can you not handle an opinion different than your own? Why do you feel so threatened by it?

        • Trying to make him cry?

      • Yes, because becoming an MP through fraud is a fundamental human right. Just like freedom of speech. Well played, Jon.

    • Voters who are dumb enough not to check the credentials of their candidate before voting ought not to have the taxpayer funded right to redo the election after the fact. Besides, BC has recall legislation, and it's never been sucessfully used. The threshholds to recall elected officials are necessarily high….so not surprisingly, when people attempt it, they are often not grass roots groups of citizens but well-funded interest groups from outside the riding who have an axe to grind. That was certainly the case the one time it was attempted in BC.

  7. I will reserve my judgment on these new parliamentarians ability until enough time has passed. It would surely be lively while waiting for the next election. I was already entertained by Libby Davies, who happens to have longer experience serving the house, when she threw a tantrum in her after election interview with CPAC, not to mention Muclair.

    • I agree. I'm no NDPer, and I've long hated the fact that voters stopped caring about local candidates.

      But I've heard enough of this story and "the McGill Four." Wait until they're in the House and have a chance to prove themselves right or wrong. Their names were on the ballot. I don't see a lot of the whiners doing the same. And it's not like this is the first time young candidates got into the House on a fluke of history. The only difference here is that they're NDPers who didn't do it by moving to choice Tory ridings in Alberta.

      • And if they truly are terrible MPs, it serves the voters and NDP both right.

        • I do agree with you in that, but there had been terrible experienced MPs serving our country in the past and who knows how many in the present and future as well. I never agreed with NDP's platform in the past or the present, but different taste for different folks. Should they serve and satisfy their constituency during the time served, my kudos to them. Give them time, sit tight and enjoy the oncoming show.

      • Oh, but I believe it is the first time a 19 year old has been elected MP.

  8. ”It was just symbolic,” she said… ”Once I set my mind to something I always stick to it,” she said.

    Just bringing the contradictory statements a little closer together.

    • The two statements, of course, refer to different events, if you will. The former to her putting her name forward as a candidate. The latter to her accepting the responsibility that comes with having been elected.

      • I once ran in a municipal election. I fully expected to lose, but was prepared, should a meteor take out the other candidates, to do my best. I think that's her point as well.

        • That's why you skipped the candidates debate, isn't it?

          • I actually took part in the debates. It was the only campaigning I could afford to do.

        • You call contingency in the event of partisan multiple-takeout meteor strike sticking to that to which you have set your mind??

          • She was referring to speculation that she would refuse the job. Seems a not unreasonable response to "Now that you have the job, what now?' I suspect that would have been my reaction.

            For a municipal candidate that appears to be lacking in "sticking to that…", may I refer you to new MP for Mississauga-Brampton South, Eve Adams. Left her seat on Mississauga City Council once she won her riding as MP, just 6 months after taking the council seat. That's a $500,000 byelection right there.

          • "Once I set my mind to something." OK, it seems like she has opted to suffer the burden of switching jobs from an Ottawa campus pub to Parliament Hill for an X-fold bump in income. But she has obviously only "set her mind to it" AFTER Jack-o-manie 2011 swept her into something she obviously didn't expect or want.

            Which suggests she might have chosen NOT to set her mind to it, too. Neither her mind nor her heart was in it a week ago.

          • It is very difficult to accept your claims of not being galled by this, even though you cloak it in an outrage over the supposed non-seriousness of her candidacy. While you might not admit it, it is also very difficult to accept that you are not, at some very fundamental level, jealous when the first point of criticism in your posts is over the money involved.

            "OK, it seems like she has opted to suffer the burden of switching jobs from an Ottawa campus pub to Parliament Hill for an X-fold bump in income. "
            "And I am not in any way recommending recall of these NDP pylons now set to earn six figures. "

          • I would have to want the job myself to be jealous.

            Of course, if I wanted the job, I would stand for election and actually, you know, campaign for the job.

          • Fair enough.

        • How much prep time did you spend in Vegas?

      • Here's what I would do if my mind were set on winning a seat:

        A) Make sure I was running in a riding where most spoke the same official language as me
        B) Look the riding up on a map
        C) Visit the riding
        D) Not go to Vegas mid-campaign

        It appears she did none of these things. I'm not blaming the kid. It was, after all, symbolic. And I have a feeling she is symbolic of the monumental task Jack Layton has for the next 4 years.

        • Yeah, right, there is just a tidal wave of other stories like her's just waiting for doubters to dogpile on. That hasn't happened yet because this particular one is just too important.

          Wait a minute… that's not right. This candidate (oops! I mean MP elect) is practically the only instance that anybody is talking about. I wonder if that could be because it is the only damn instance to talk about.

          • Then, is it really such a big deal?

          • I have had this crush on Charmaine Borg since Paul Wells asked us all if we'd seen her, since the good people of Terrebonne-Blainville hadn't, either.

          • Ah, so it is lust and not jealousy. My bad.

          • I guess I am drawn to mysterious young women who play hard-to-get. Which is a curious blend of features in a politician, but it seemed to work well with many Quebec voters a week ago…

  9. It is my position that MPs should be chosen by lottery from all registered eligible electors who confirm they want their name put forward – 1/2 of the House rotating every two years.

    For 143 years now we have been over governed by people organized into herds of bleating sheep complete with their guard dogs and shepards and we have paid a large price in terms of the income we are allowed to keep and the foolishness of how our money was spent.

    I am happy to see a few new MP's who got in without first dreaming of controlling the rest of us and I wish them well … they can do no worse to us then have so many of the lawyers and usual suspects we usually elect.

    • Hah what a refreshing idea, just like jury duty! Two years would be very disruptive though. Just make sure there is a recall clause somewhere as a four year term is quite a long time.

    • Might work better as a senate mechanism than for the commons. Have the professional politicians do the drafting of legislation and whatnot. Have randomly selected citizens subject to the constraint of 'appropriate' regional representation responsible for sober second thought.

  10. There's a reason that both the Liberals and the Conservatives have backed away from the court challenge that would be needed to annul her election. I'd say they both (correctly) believe that leaving her there will do more damage to the NDP than taking any action to get rid of her.

    • Bingo.

    • Obviously. They'd have to be crazy not to want her in the House. The Liberals in particular, since she's their last best hope.

    • or the fact that bullying a single mom who fluked into an MP's position by the wishes of the voters makes you look like a total partisan jackhole made them think twice

      • this

    • They get it both ways. Allege the shadiness of the nomination process WITHOUT an actual judicial challenge, AND hope she flops big time.

      • Our CPC and LPC at their best.

        • I could swear I just heard two war rooms thank you for the compliment.

  11. How is sticking with a symbolic act contradictory?

  12. I am no NDP voter, but the fact she put her name forward, knowing full well she was a symbolic candidate, and that the voters knew or should have known the background of her candidacy before they voted her in, makes her perfectly able to fill the role of MP. She will either grow into the role, or wash out. Better her than yet another preening lawyer.

    If I had been elected an MP when I was a second year Poli Sci student, it would have been a dream come true, and I would have done all in my power to do the best job possible. Lack of life experience would have been made up by passion and desire to do best job possible.

  13. What everyone forgets is that the story should not be about Ms. Brosseau, but about the NDP.

    It was the NDP that had a complete disregard for "democracy" that Jack whines about so often. He and his party could not be bothered to sign up candidates who live in each riding. No, just go to the nearest bar in Montreal, or Ottawa, and sign up anyone. Worse still, only do a half-assed job in getting signatures for their nomination papers. "Zombie" Volpe would be proud of Jack.

    At the same time, Layton has removed the party's Constitution from its website, and completely scrubbed all Google references. Could it be that this communist-like manifesto might reveal what the NDP is really about? Why aren't folks screaming about Jack's anti-democratic actions?

    Neat, Jack. Now you have set a new (low) bar for your party in following elections. Why are we not surprised at the duplicity of this used car (Lada) salesman?

    • Why aren't you aware that this story is about the voters? Why arent you aware of of the fact that elections Canada has checked and her election was valid. If voters do not do their homework, or, are so pissed off with the Bloc, the Liberals and the conservatives that they chose to say – what the hell, let's vote NDP, they have that right.

      I hope she surprises everyone and does well.

  14. There is no difference between the Liberals, the Conservatives or the NDP because the incompetent bureacracy never changes:


    Neither does the media.

  15. Why is M. Brosseau a less welcome or less qualified MP than her predecessor?

  16. Once I set my mind to something I always stick to it.
    Like the time that 1st yr PoliSci student put some gum in my hair."

  17. ”Once I set my mind to something I always stick to it,”
    Only a child could say something so stupid in the circumstances where she has already patently shown that she did NOT stick with it: never went to her riding, never gave an interview, went on vacation.
    Her apologists need to give their heads a shake. Her attitude is an insult to democracy.

    • Notice that word – democracy. The voters chose her – that's democracy. She didn't expect to be elected but she has been and now she can get down to work.. No doubt there are other more technically qualified M.P.'s but that does not mean she can't do the job. Time will tell.

      • Yes, incredible that Conservative candidates get absolutely hammered for disrespecting democracy for daring to skip a debate, but a candidate who doesn't even have the respect to SET FOOT IN HER RIDING is a triumph for "getting involved".

  18. What are the odds she will be a worse MP than Rahim Jaffer was? I put them at 50/50. And he was re-elected several times.

    • Rahim spoke French and he was from Alberta!

      • Are you sure he spoke French? Or was that an assistant pretending to be him?

        • Line of the day- that brightened my morning. Thanks.

    • As was Herr Anders

  19. All things said, the next 4 years will be fun. :)

    Poor Jack, if his hair wasn't already gray, it would be after this. lol

  20. Well, and old Irish friend of mine, who as of late cannot drink anymore (but anyway). He would've say "rantingly" of a woman of Ellen's stature: "… I want you to go down to the Ottawa Market, and get 2 BJ's, and bring me back one, NOW !!!…"
    shhhhh ?, just wait.