‘There’s a problem’

by Aaron Wherry

The existential crisis that is Ruth Ellen Brosseau’s election is captured here in four sentences.

Ghislaine Tessier said she voted NDP because she likes leader Jack Layton, not because of the local candidate. She also says Brosseau could always learn French. It’s the fact her new MP has never been to the riding that, Tessier said, really annoys her. ”We elected someone who’s not even present and who didn’t campaign at all — there’s a problem,” said Tessier, a teacher.




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‘There’s a problem’

  1. Surely it is up to Mme Tessier to know who is 'present' in her riding and who isn't. Nice to know that there are ignorant teachers across Canada and not just teaching my niece and nephew.

    • In 1993 a scandal involving a Liberal Candidate broke out in the last week or so of the campaign. One of their GTA candidates had threatened members of the (Markham?) school board after not being promoted to principal. He was the Liberal candidate on the ballot, however, so — much to the surprise and chagrin of the Conservative incumbent — he was successfully elected.

  2. The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

    -Winston Churchill

    • Or about ten words written by Emily.

      • Don't be bitter…it's unbecoming.

    • Liberals, even when in opposition, are always surprised when they meet someone who isn't a Liberal.

      - Rick Mercer

      • "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." – Stephen Colbert

  3. Canada's politicians and the media that covers them have convinced Canadians that they vote for leaders, not local representatives.

    Certainly such concerns should factor in, but Tessier takes it too far. For example, I would not have voted Conservative regardless of who my candidate was, because of my disapproval of Harper. But that kind of negative emphasis on leadership is less harmful to democracy than the positive emphasis on leadership Tessier displays, i.e. voting FOR a party because of the leader, with no knowledge of the candidate.

    A country as large and with as widely dispersed a population as Canada cannot afford this democratic tendency. The more geographically isolated we are, the more we have to concentrate on local candidates, rather than national leaders. Of course, as long as political parties keep centralizing and whipping votes, and as long as the media keep incessantly focusing on leaders rather than local representatives, it will not make sense for a voter to maintain such a narrow scope.

  4. How I think it will be discovered that Ms Brasseau got the nomination:

    Thomas Mulcair took his list of potential candidates to the Ottawa bar where Ms Brasseau was working. Faced with a deadline, and recognizing she had a french sounding last name, he convinced her to put her name on the ballot – suggesting – no big deal, they just wanted the $2/vote subsidy, and to claim they had a national campaign.

    Convinced that she'd have to do nothing, nor change her plans she agreed. She put $1 in the slots, and it came up triple cherries.

    • A fair hypothesis.

    • Her nomination papers are signed by people in the riding. The questionable signatures are from an address where there are legitimate signatures to the left and right. So either: 1. Someone else in the house (like the kids) forged the signatures, or 2. no one was home so the campaign team did it, thinking they wouldn't be caught.

  5. Is this the first time in Canadian history the MP for a riding has never been to the riding?

    I would have thought that when she signed those nomination papers, she's at least do a road trip. She was able to afford a trip to Vegas.

    • Well no. This is not the first in Canadian history. Back in the good old days, the 19th century, George-Étienne Cartier, father of Confederation and John A.'s right hand man, lost his seat in Québec. Louis Riel, the founding father of Manitoba, agreed to step aside and let Cartier stand for election in the riding of Provencher (Manitoba). Cartier won, and to my knowledge, never set foot in the riding nor the province. I wouldn't be surprised if there were other cases. Although there is a nice statue of the man on the grounds of the Manitoba legislative building.

      • Thanks! Very interesting, you know a lot of history. The circumstances and reasons were different, but it happened.

        Cartier had much more of an excuse for the situation, since a trip to Manitoba would have been quite a journey back then. Brosseau just needed to hop in her car for a weekend road trip from Ottawa to the riding.

      • Sir John A. Macdonald also lost his own seat once; he sat in the House for four years as the MP for Victoria, BC, despite never visiting the riding before or during his as its representative.

        • Thanks for that. And a valuable lesson learned. If you're going to have an absentee MP, better it be the head honcho. He did promise a railway to the west coast and it got done eventually, while Sir George-Étienne Cartier had the temerity to die less than a year after being elected… And all we got was this statue that nobody knows what its doing on the legislative grounds!

      • Ruth Ellen Brosseau is the George-Étienne Cartier of our time!

  6. The average Canadian is clueless.
    They think Canadian politics is set up the same as the US.
    They think penguins live in the Arctic.
    Brosseau came in as part of a sweep — just like Isabelle Morin, a unilingual francophone who now represents a mostly English riding in Montreal. Or that Conservative postal carrier who was signed up in one riding and won.
    Regardless of her qualifications, she now has the job.

    Does anybody really think she doesn't realize she's got a steep learning curve and will do her best to be better than, say, Bev Oda?

    • I'm a little skeptical that someone who didn't feel the need to bother visiting her own riding for even a single day (but had the time for a trip to Vegas) has the judgement to become a good MP. But I could be wrong.

      All I know is, if I put my name down as the candidate for a riding, I'd feel the need to see that riding, at least once.

  7. There is a lot of attention on Ms. Brosseau, but very little on the Conservative candidates in Alberta who basically spent the election in hiding. The new Lethbridge MP was barely seen by anyone and wouldn't respond to questions. These people could be cabinet ministers, or at least have the PM's ear, and that worries me more than the experience of an NDP backbencher.

    • Maybe because the Conservatives have been forming cabinets for five years already, and are therefore a known quantity? The media spent ZERO time examining the NDP candidates or their policies during the election. It's time they started.

  8. So tell me … in Alberta, everyone votes for the best local candidates with the most vigorous campaigns and that just happens to come out Conservative again and again?

    • …but to be fair, those nominations tend to be hard fought given the virtual certainty of electoral success that follows.

      • "…those nominations tend to be hard fought…" except when they are not. As is the case with Calgary West were nomination meetings are not even permitted.

    • Success can and usually does attract the best.

      • Which explains the continued success of Rob Anders, right?

        • Eeeewww.

      • or the most opportunistic

    • Al Brown, the NDP candidate, received more votes than Josipa Petrunic, the Liberal candidate.

      Al Brown didn't even run a campaign. Google the Calgary-East representative of the NDP, and you were as likely to wind up with the guy running before him as you were him.

      Josipa's campaign apparantly heard a number of "I wish I could vote for you, but I can't vote for Ignatieff"

      My own mother, who also lives in this riding, agrees with me that Mr. Obhrai is a waste of skin when it comes to this riding. She also voted for him though, because of her worry about Ignatieff.

      I suppose I should be happy in some ways. With Mr. Harper having a majority government, the good times will continue to roll here for at least the next four years, and I don't expect we'll see serious environmental action from other countries for a decade or so. Which means I'll take these four years and make like an ant..

      ..because I know winter's coming, and it's gonna be brutal.

      However, unlike the ant, I'll be taking full advantage of when it hits and start eating through the grasshopper's corpses without any qualms

  9. Without getting into the specifics of Ms. Brosseau's case, how about a discussion on the general question of residency? I know U.S. Senators must be residents of the state in question, and I don't think asking candidates to be residents of the riding is too onerous a burden for qualification. The definition of residency would be simple enough to agree to – the prime minister and deployed service members can register to vote in their home ridings, so cribbing from those would be a good starting point.

    It's not a perfect solution, but it would at least eliminate the worst cases of token candidates; or, perhaps more accurately, assure the token candidates had at least a minor connection to the people they seek to represent. Parachute candidates typically have greater financial support/investment and would probably not be affected. But it would be a start.

  10. During the second last week of the campaign, Rob Anders was door-knocking – 300 km from his constituency. It was in support of a vain effort to get a former PMO staffer elected in Edmonton-Strathcona. Clearly, staying were you are running is not a priority for some CPC MPs.

  11. It's the fact her new MP has never been to the riding that, Tessier said, really annoys her.

    It obviously didn't annoy you enough on Monday, madame Tessier. But thanks for airing your concerns now.

  12. What does Anders have to do with price of tea in china?

    My point was that it is up to Mme Tessier, a teacher, to educate herself about local candidates.

    For instance, I attended local candidates debate and learned all sorts of things about candidates, including who lived locally and who didn't. I find it peculiar that teacher is willng to expose her ignorance like mme Tessier is but each to her own.

  13. A problem indeed. The Orange Wave in Quebec is much easier to understand after reading this. They voted NDP because everyone else was. That's it. Meaningless details like who your local candidate is, or if she is, in fact, even local, can be dealt with later. Right now, I want to be part of the herd.

  14. 1) Nobody has seen her talking on television.

    • And I'm sorry to hear you're one of them.

  15. That's a poor analogy. I believe a letter carrier would at least have a familiarity with the neighbourhoods in his riding. Nobody is trashing this woman for her youth or inexperience. Her never having visited a constituency she now represents is another story.

    By the way, stating that the average Canadian is clueless does not add weight to your point. See Emily's ramblings for an example of why that is.

  16. Rob Anders is unfortunate. But the Liberals just got rid of Ruby Dhalla and Joe Volpe. So I remain hopeful that Anders can be dispatched as well.

    • Fortune has nothing to do with it. Rob Anders – the pride of Calgary West – is being aggresively protected from any nomination challenge by the Conservative Party. It's not luck, it's planning.

      • Anders is alienating long time conservative supporters. So his days are numbered.

  17. And lucky for May, she was excluded from the debates. I really believe that helped her. Not that she would have $hit the bed on TV. But I think there was a kind of rebellion in the riding in reaction to her exclusion.

  18. Please explain how you're negative emphasis on leadership is any better than positive emphasis.

    What you're saying is that you'd knowingly vote for a less than ideal party, and thus lackluster policy, just because you "disapprove" of the leader that has the best policy. What Tessier is basically saying is that she voted NDP just because she liked Layton (and one would assume she thinks that the NDP have the best policy). She may be voting in ignorance, but what you're saying is that you actively voted against what you knew would be better for Canada, simply out of some personal grudge.

    • You have me almost completely backwards.

      There are two things to consider when I vote. The specific representative I'm voting for and the leader of the party he/she represents. If I disapprove of either, I need to seriously reconsider my vote. I don't think it's harmful to democracy to ensure both deserve my vote.

      However, if the best candidate in my riding were represented by a leader I very much disapprove of I would probably not vote for that candidate. Is that to say I would necessarily vote for a bad candidate? No. I would look at the other candidates and see if they are adequate; or, I would simply spoil my ballot.

      Any of these options are superior to knowingly voting for a bad/unqualified candidate because you strongly approve of the leader of the party he/she represents. That is the reverse of representative democracy.

      And "personal grudge" is a simply ludicrous way to characterize my problems, as a Canadian citizen, with Stephen Harper's parliamentary misbehaviour.

  19. After this election, I think more than ever there needs to be a "none of the above" option added to the ballot.

  20. I agree. In fairness to Brosseau. She wasn't seriously expecting anybody to vote for her. The Conservative candidates, on the other hand, never show up to debates, never meet constituents and hardly ever talk to the media…and then expect to get elected. The only thing more pathetic is the fact that they actually do.

  21. I think we should stop picking on Mme Brosseau until we've let her do her job for a while. She does manage the bar at Carleton after all. The House of Commons is going to seem like an oasis of civility by comparison.

    • No, the bar at the Carleton will seem like the oasis of civility.

      • If she's been managing a bar then becoming an MP means that she'll be making a lot more money for a lot less responsibility.

        • But she'll be expected to travel out to that riding in the middle of nowhere each weekend at least.

          Does that mean I have to like, buy a map? Like, how far a drive is it anyway? Are the people there nice? Are there any hot guys? I'm so excited!

          (No, those are not actual quotes – I'm just having some fun at her expense.)

  22. It certainly highlights the fact that most people do not vote for the candidate. Which must mean that proportional representation's scary concept of having a list member wouldn't be that scary for the vast majority of us. Still, there's that pesky concept of accountability. But I think we've thrown that concept out now.

    • I agree with first sentence but not your conclusion about PR. Scary for me regardless if I vote for party or person.

      Jenn_ – If you are still out there, I saw a couple of your messages a week ago (???) but saw them well after you had written one or two so I did not leave reply. I am not ignoring you Jenn_, just saw your two messages to late.

  23. Or 3, the guy honestly forgot he signed it. Or 4, the guy is now embarrassed that he signed it, now that he realizes she doesn't speak French and doesn't live in the riding.

    But have you all read The Best Laid Plans? This is the reality version, LOL!

  24. Winter's coming. I'm loving that show! That's exactly how I feel, too. I've used that line a couple of times this week, but nobody else has watched that show to get the reference.

  25. Frankly, I always thought we had that rule. I also wondered how Olivia Chow and Jack Layton got around it–was their house straddling riding borders? I thought that's why parachute candidates moved into the riding! I didn't realize they didn't have to.

  26. This pains me to type it, but good post Emily. (ouch) lol

  27. After reading this, all I can say is wow.

    Makes it hard to voice an opinion for PR, when we have voters like this.

    Any chance of instituting a 'voters license'? Heck, we need one for driving. :)

    • Sieg Heil

  28. I think the difference is that the Alberta voters have a choice between someone who represents them poorly and people who don't want to represent them at all. If Rob Anders or Jason Kenney is a weak MP, the other parties should pour resources into that riding to unseat him and look for ways to represent that riding in their platform.

    Quebec voters however have 4 parties who are eager to jockey for their favour.

  29. Surely to God the other candidates in this riding could have done a better job of pointing this out? I mean, people blame the media, or the "stupid voters". What about the other candidates? Were they braindead? Did it not occur to them to ask the whereabouts of this little girl? Perhaps they did and the media didn't cover it, in which case it is a media failing. But I'm thinking if I was running against a candidate who had never so much as walked down a sidewalk in my riding, I'd find a way to make that known, even if it meant screaming it from the roof tops with a bull horn.

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