Ruth Ellen Brosseau

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Ruth Ellen Brosseau
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Berthier—Maskinongé
Incumbent
Assumed office
2011
Preceded by Guy André
Personal details
Born (1984-04-26) April 26, 1984 (age 30)
Montreal, Quebec
Political party New Democratic Party
Residence Hull (Gatineau), Quebec and Louiseville, Quebec

Ruth Ellen Brosseau (born April 26, 1984)[1][2][3] is a Canadian politician. She was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a New Democratic Party candidate in the 2011 federal election. She is currently the Deputy Agriculture Critic in the NDP's shadow cabinet, and vice-chair of the NDP National Caucus.

Brosseau is a single mother. She divides her time between Louiseville, Quebec in her riding of Berthier—Maskinongé and Hull, Quebec in the National Capital Region.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Brosseau's father, Marc, is a francophone[6] who is also fluent in English.[7] The Brosseau family lived in Hudson, Quebec until the younger Brosseau reached grade 2. From there, the family moved to Kingston, Ontario, where she continued to take French immersion classes.[8]

Brosseau attended St. Lawrence College in Kingston. Her online biography initially indicated that she graduated from the college, but it was later clarified that she left before graduating, while being two credits short of completing her diploma.[9] The NDP issued a statement that Brosseau had never claimed to have received a diploma, adding, "When her bio was posted on our website, a party staffer inadvertently changed the wording. We apologize for posting this information in error and regret any inconvenience this has caused Ms. Brosseau."[10]

Before her election to Parliament, Brosseau held the position of assistant manager for Oliver's Pub, a bar on the campus of Carleton University in Ottawa.[11] She is also an animal welfare activist who has worked to find homes for stray animals and help injured animals recover.[12]

Political career[edit]

Brosseau ran fast for a seat to the House of Commons of Canada in the 2011 federal election. She stood as the New Democratic Party candidate in the electoral district of Berthier—Maskinongé in central Quebec. She was the second nomination choice of the party as the original candidate, Julie Demers, decided to run in Bourassa instead (where she lost).[13]

Brosseau was a paper candidate who had been selected by the party due to the lack of a viable local nominee. She never put a serious campaign together and never went to the riding, which straddles the regions of Lanaudière and Mauricie, during the writ period. However, on election night, Brosseau defeated incumbent Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Guy André, former provincial Liberal MNA Francine Gaudet and three other candidates, winning with a plurality of 5,735 votes and taking just under 40% of all the votes cast. André finished a distant second, with only 29.4 percent of the vote.[14] Her victory was part of a wave of NDP support in Quebec, a province in which the party has historically not done well. The NDP increased its standing in the province from one seat in Montreal to a surprising total of 59.

Brosseau's victory was one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 election. Central Quebec, which includes Berthier–Maskinongé, has historically been a very nationalist region, a factor which made it a Bloc stronghold for nearly two decades. Most of the riding's residents had been represented by Bloc MPs since the Bloc's 54-seat breakthrough in 1993. Previously, the NDP had never finished higher than fourth in the riding's present incarnation (dating to 2004), and every previous NDP challenger had lost his or her deposit.

Significant concerns had been raised about her proficiency in French, especially given the fact that 98 percent of Berthier-Maskinongé's residents are francophone[15] and 77 percent of them don't speak English at all.[10] Of the NDP's Quebec MPs, she was the only one who was not fluent enough in French to use it in debate at the time the writs were dropped.[13] Early in the campaign, she granted an interview with CHHO-FM in Louiseville, but station officials opted not to air it due to concerns about the quality of her French.[10][15][16][17] When asked about his daughter's French proficiency, her father, Marc Brosseau, said that "The quality of (her) French is good. It's just if she wants to rise to the occasion, she speaks it, but let's just say it's not at a high proficiency level."[7][18]

Brosseau did not address the media or take questions from reporters for several days after her election.[19] Her father felt that her silence was an act of caution. "There's so much bad publicity that's surrounded all of this, and there's so much misinformation. She wants to make sure that when it does come out, it'll come out properly. This is maybe another stage in her life that's gonna put her in a whole new different sphere."[7][18]

At a press conference held the day after Brosseau's election, Thomas Mulcair, who was then the NDP co-deputy leader and Quebec lieutenant, addressed her language issues. While conceding that Brosseau's command of French was "not at a level we would expect for a riding like Berthier—Maskinongé," he personally promised to "help organize her office" and "give her all the help that's needed."[20] He also said that he was willing to handle most of Berthier-Maskinongé's constituency issues in the short term.[13]

On May 6, Brosseau gave her first interview since being elected, with Le Nouvelliste of Trois-Rivières. Brosseau acknowledged that she had not expected to be elected and that she had not been to her new riding, but planned to go there soon.[21] The Globe and Mail noted that the interview was conducted "almost entirely in English."[21][22] Earlier, the NDP sent an automated telephone message introducing Brosseau to her new constituents, in which she spoke in "rehearsed and passable French".[21][22][23]

On May 11, she made her first public appearance in her new riding. She attended a museum opening in Lavaltrie where she made a speech in French.[24] She also met with the mayors of Lavaltrie, Louiseville and Trois-Rivières and was granted an interview with Trois-Rivières television station CHEM-TV, also in French.[24][25] By the time the new Parliament opened, Brosseau listed both English and French as her preferred languages on the Commons floor. She asked her first question in Question Period on June 22, in French—regarding the construction of a sports complex in Lavaltrie.[26] All of the videos on her official YouTube channel are in French.

On July 22, Brosseau officially opened her constituency office in Louiseville. At the time, her French was described as "still hesitant".[27] By most accounts it had considerably improved by December 2011,[5] and by April 2012 the Canadian Press stated that "original claims about her lack of proficiency in the language now appear exaggerated." It reported that the rumours about her lack of proficiency in French benefited her, as many constituents believe that she was a monolingual anglophone at the time she was elected and so are impressed by her apparently rapidly improving French. Brosseau herself said that she grew up speaking French as a child, but didn't feel comfortable speaking it during the campaign because she'd been out of practice for some time.[28]

On April 19, 2012, Brosseau was named Deputy Agriculture Critic [29] in the NDP's shadow cabinet, and on April 3, 2014, she was elected as vice-chair of the NDP National Caucus.[30]

Controversies and criticism[edit]

During the 2011 federal election, Brosseau raised controversy when it was learned that she had spent part of the campaign on vacation in Las Vegas. Her trip had been arranged prior to the election being called. By the time the writ was dropped, it was too late to reschedule.[31] NDP leader Jack Layton defended Brosseau's decision to vacation in Vegas, pinning the blame on Harper not keeping his promise on fixed election dates.[32] An op-ed in the National Post criticized Brosseau's inexperience, writing that she is "an extreme example of what happens when people sign up to run for a party with little or no expectation of actually winning."[33]

Two days after the election, allegations were made by both the defeated Liberal and Conservative candidates about irregularities on Brosseau's nomination papers. While each party has the chance to vet each other's nomination papers before the election, the other parties chose not to vet Brosseau's papers because no one believed she had a realistic chance of winning. The local Liberal and Conservative associations have called for a by-election, but Elections Canada has ruled that only a court can order new elections.[34] Both parties subsequently declined to file a formal court challenge.[34]

In response to the allegations, the NDP released a statement, stating that "All signatures were collected legitimately, the documents were tabled with Elections Canada and they were approved by the Returning Officer."[35][36]

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2011: Berthier—Maskinongé
Party Candidate Votes %
New Democratic Ruth Ellen Brosseau 22,484 39.63%
Bloc Québécois Guy André 16,668 29.38%
Liberal Francine Gaudet 8,109 14.29%
Conservative Marie-Claude Godue 7,909 13.94%
Green Léonie Matteau 1,193 2.10%
Rhinoceros Martin Jubinville 375 0.66%
Total 56,738 100.00%
Source: "Berthier—Maskinongé election results". Elections Canada. May 2, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2011. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ruth Ellen Brosseau sort de son mutisme". Cyberpresse: Le Nouvelliste. 05-07-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "Vegas-visiting Quebec NDP MP Brosseau admits she never visited riding". Vancouver Sun. 05-07-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ "'Vegas girl' acknowledges her luck, embraces new challenges in Ottawa". The Globe and Mail. 05-20-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Allan Woods and Joanna Smith (May 4, 2011). "Reality show stars, students, museum guides: meet the new NDP MPs". The Toronto Star. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Gauthier, Vincent (December 28, 2011). "La rocambolesque épopée de Ruth Ellen Brosseau". Le Nouvelliste (in French) (Trois-Rivières, Quebec). Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ "NDP’s Brosseau admits she’s never been to riding". Toronto Star. 05-07-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ a b c "Video: When will Ruth Ellen meet the press?" The Globe and Mail, Featuring video from CTV.ca, May, 04, 2011
  8. ^ "Brosseau speaks to media, says victory was a "shock"". CTV News Ottawa. 05-07-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ NDP says party — not Brosseau — at fault for false diploma claim, Canada.com, May 10, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c New Democrat doesn’t have diploma, despite inclusion in biography The Globe and Mail 2011-05-10
  11. ^ "How will Layton's new MPs take to Ottawa?". CTV News. May 3, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  12. ^ Ruth Ellen Brosseau. "Ruth Ellen Brosseau candidate profile". New Democratic Party of Canada. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c Tamsin McMahon (May 4, 2011). "The REALLY New Democrats". National Post. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Berthier—Maskinongé election results". Elections Canada. May 2, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Andrew Chung (2011-04-28). "In French-speaking riding, NDP candidate speaks little French". The Toronto Star. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ Plante, Louise (May 4, 2011). "Ruth-Ellen Brosseau: fantôme et anglophone?". Le Nouvelliste (in French) (Trois-Rivières, Quebec). Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  17. ^ Nadeau, André (May 3, 2011). "Berthier-Maskinongé choisit une députée anglophone unilingue". L'Action (in French) (Joliette, Quebec). Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Quote taken from the "CTV Ottawa: Catherine Lathem on a new MP" video link". Ctv.ca. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ "How will Layton's new MPs take to Ottawa? - CTV News". Ctv.ca. May 3, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  20. ^ Montpetit, Jonathan. "NDP's gang of rookies includes four McGill students, 19-year-old, Vegas visitor". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b c "NDP's Brosseau admits she's never been to riding, but excited to go soon". Globe and Mail. 05-07-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. ^ a b News, PostMedia (05-07-11). "Controversial NDP MP Brosseau admits she’s never visited her Quebec riding". National Post.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. ^ "Ruth Ellen Brosseau s'adresse à ses électeurs". La Presse. 05-07-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ a b Chung, Andrew. Controversial Quebec MP emerges from the shadows. The Toronto Star, 2011-05-12.
  25. ^ Minsky, Amy. ‘Composed, competent’ rookie MP Brosseau makes Quebec riding debut. Montreal Gazette, 2011-05-12.
  26. ^ "Ruth Ellen Brosseau - Première Question à la Chambre des Communes" (video) (in French). June 22, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  27. ^ Jacob, Guillaume (July 23, 2011). "Ruth-Ellen Brosseau inaugure son bureau". Le Nouvelliste (in French) (Trois-Rivières, Quebec). Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  28. ^ Blatchford, Andy (2012-04-22). "NDP’s ‘Vegas’ MP, one year later". Metro. Canadian Press. Retrieved May 4, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Mulcair names NDP shadow cabinet". CBC.ca. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  30. ^ NDP News
  31. ^ Bill Curry (April 26, 2011). "NDP candidate takes mid-campaign vacation in Vegas". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  32. ^ Theodore, Terri (04-27-11). "Lack of fixed election dates to blame for vacationing NDP candidates: Layton". Yahoo News Canada.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  33. ^ Hamilton, Graeme (April 27, 2011). "NDP surge means some unlikely candidates have a shot at Parliament". National Post (Toronto). 
  34. ^ a b Marie Vastel; Rhéal Séguin (May 6, 2011). "Libs, Tories protest controversial NDP MP's win, but won't challenge it in court". Canadian Press. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  35. ^ Tu Thanh Ha; Rhéal Séguin (May 4, 2011). "New NDP MP accused of falsifying nomination papers". Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 
  36. ^ Sarah Boesveld; Sarah-Taissir Bencharif (May 4, 2011). "NDP MP Thomas Mulcair questions Bin Laden pictures". National Post. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 

External links[edit]