Ruth Ellen Brosseau
|Ruth Ellen Brosseau
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
May 2, 2011
|Preceded by||Guy André|
April 26, 1984 |
|Political party||New Democratic Party|
Ruth Ellen Brosseau (born April 26, 1984) is a Canadian politician from the New Democratic Party who has represented the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé in the Canadian House of Commons since the 2011 federal election. When Brosseau was first elected, she gained the nickname "Vegas Girl" for a mid-election vacation to Las Vegas, but she became a popular local MP and won re-election in the 2015 federal election. During the 41st Canadian Parliament, she was the Deputy Agriculture Critic in the NDP's shadow cabinet and vice-chair of the NDP National Caucus.
Early and personal life
Brosseau was born in Ottawa, and lived in Hudson, Quebec before her family moved to Kingston, Ontario. Brosseau's father, Marc, is a francophone who is also fluent in English. Brosseau continued to take French immersion classes. She gave birth when she was 17 and finished high school partly through the use of correspondence courses.
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. She also worked as a bartender at Pier 21 on the Market near the Parliament and the University of Ottawa. She is also an animal welfare activist who has worked to find homes for stray animals and help injured animals recover.
Brosseau first ran 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, opted to run in Bourassa. Brosseau was a 'paper candidate' who had been selected by the party due to the lack of a viable local nominee. After the fact, Brosseau referred to herself as a 'poteau', a French slang term for a paper candidate that translates to 'sign post' in English. She agreed to run after being asked by some of her politically active friends who frequented the bar she worked at if they could put her name forward as a Quebec candidate.
Brosseau did not campaign and never went to the riding, which straddles the regions of Lanaudière and Mauricie, during the writ period. During the election, Brosseau raised controversy when it was learned that she had spent part of the campaign on vacation in Las Vegas for her birthday. Her trip had been arranged prior to the election being called. By the time the writ was dropped, it was too late to reschedule or get a refund. NDP leader Jack Layton defended Brosseau's decision to vacation in Las Vegas, pinning the blame on Stephen Harper not keeping his promise on fixed election dates. 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."
On election night, Brosseau defeated incumbent Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Guy André, former provincial Liberal MNA Francine Gaudet and three other candidates, winning a plurality with 22,484 votes, representing just under 40% of all the votes cast. This represented a lead of 5,816 votes over André, who finished a distant second with only 29.4 percent of the vote. Her victory was part of a wave of NDP support in Quebec that increased its standing in the province from one seat to 59.
Significant concerns had been raised about her proficiency in French, especially given the fact that 98 percent of Berthier-Maskinongé's residents are francophone and 77 percent of them don't speak English at all. At a press conference held the day after Brosseau's election, Thomas Mulcair, 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."
Two days after the election, allegations were made by both the defeated Liberal and Conservative candidates about irregularities on Brosseau's nomination papers, which the other parties had chosen not to vet because of low expectations of her winning. The local Liberal and Conservative associations called for a by-election, but Elections Canada found Brosseau's nomination papers to be in order and subsequently ruled that only a court can order new elections. Both parties subsequently declined to file a formal court challenge. 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."
Immediately following her election, Brosseau began working with Kathleen Monk, the NDP's director of communication in 2011, to tackle some of the challenges she faced as a new MP. She avoided the media and met with mayors and local business owners in her riding to get a grasp of her new constituents. When discussing her political career, Monk conceded that "There were many people in the media and political backrooms who didn’t think or frankly want her to succeed."
When Brosseau officially opened her constituency office in Louiseville in July 2011 her French was described as "still hesitant". By most accounts it had considerably improved by December, 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 said that she grew up speaking French as a child, but did not feel comfortable speaking it during the campaign because she had been out of practice for some time. By 2015 Chatelaine described Brosseau as being fluently bilingual.
Brosseau has earned praise from her caucus colleagues and national media, with Malcolm Allen remarking that, "lots of MPs work hard, but she has a great work ethic." As a single mother, she often raised issues faced by those in a similar position during parliamentary debates. A 2015 profile in Chatelaine acknowledged that, despite early criticism, "the 31-year-old has quietly evolved into an effective and highly regarded politician." In 2013, Brosseau became the NDP's lead on the student loan data breach, in part because she was personally impacted by the incident.
Brosseau championed local causes important to her riding such as high repair costs to fix home foundations built with defective pyrrhotite mixed in with concrete, an issue that she brought up 70 times in the 41st Parliament. Although she never managed to get the Harper government to join the provincial government in providing compensation, she and fellow NDP MP Robert Aubin were credited with influencing Justin Trudeau's promise that a Liberal government would do so.
2015 election and 42nd Parliament
In 2014, Brosseau announced that she would be a candidate in the 2015 federal election. Speaking with Mark Kennedy of the Ottawa Citizen, Brosseau spoke about the difficulties she faced during her first years as an MP, but noted, "It took a while to kind of get my feet planted, set up an office, learn what the job was. The negativity only encouraged me to work harder." While the NDP's Quebec caucus was reduced to 16 seats during the election, Brosseau was one of the few NDP MPs elected in 2011 who not only kept their seats, but also increased their vote share, winning re-election with 42% of the vote (almost 3% more than her first election) and almost 10,000 votes over her nearest opponent.
In May 2016, there was some controversy and an apology by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after he accidentally hit Brosseau in the chest with his elbow while attempting to lead Conservative Party whip Gord Brown to his seat so a scheduled vote could take place. The incident was dubbed "Elbowgate". Brosseau rose in the House on a point of personal privilege and placed a description of the incident into the Hansard by describing the incident on the record, and Trudeau apologized more than once, indicating his lack of intention to hurt anyone. The following day, Brosseau claimed she had become a target of personal attacks, saying that her office received a number of phone calls from members of the public, many of which suggested she was "crying wolf". Senior figures and colleagues from both the Liberal and Conservative parties subsequently came to her defence.
|Canadian federal election, 2015|
|New Democratic||Ruth Ellen Brosseau||22,942||42.24%||+2.61||–|
|Bloc Québécois||Yves Perron||13,969||25.72%||-3.66||–|
|Green||Victoria Cate May Burton||844||1.55%||-0.55||–|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||–||100.0||$218,838.34|
|Total rejected ballots||–||–||–|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|Canadian federal election, 2011: Berthier—Maskinongé|
|New Democratic||Ruth Ellen Brosseau||22,484||39.63||+29.19||$0|
|Bloc Québécois||Guy André||16,668||29.38||-16.45||$48,739|
|Total votes/Expense limit||56,738||100.0||$94,930|
|Source: "Berthier—Maskinongé election results". Elections Canada. May 2, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2011.|
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- "Brosseau speaks to media, says victory was a "shock"". CTV News. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- "How will Layton's new MPs take to Ottawa?". CTV News. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Ruth Ellen Brosseau candidate profile". New Democratic Party of Canada. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Stone, Laura (28 November 2014). "Lunch with NDP's Ruth Ellen Brosseau: Harassment 'happens everywhere' – even Parliament Hill". Global News. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- Gauthier, Vincent (28 December 2011). "La rocambolesque épopée de Ruth Ellen Brosseau". Le Nouvelliste (in French). Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- McMahon, Tamsin (4 May 2011). "The Really New Democrats". National Post. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- Austen, Ian (26 October 2015). "Accidental Lawmaker in Canada Defies Critics, and Liberal Party Resurgence". New York Times. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- Curry, Bill (26 April 2011). "NDP candidate takes mid-campaign vacation in Vegas". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- Hamilton, Graeme; McMahon, Tamsin (27 April 2011). "NDP surge means some unlikely candidates have a shot at Parliament". National Post. Toronto. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Berthier—Maskinongé election results". Elections Canada. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- Chung, Andrew (28 April 2011). "In French-speaking riding, NDP candidate speaks little French". Toronto Star. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Montpetit, Jonathan (3 May 2011). "NDP's gang of rookies includes four McGill students, 19-year-old, Vegas visitor". The Record. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Libs, Tories protest controversial NDP MP's win, but won't challenge it in court". 1310 News. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Minsky, Amy (7 May 2011). "New MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau cleared by Elections Canada". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Tu Thanh Ha; Séguin, Rhéal (4 May 2011). "Rookie NDP MP accused of using falsified nomination paper". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Boesveld, Sarah; Bencharif, Sarah-Taissir (4 May 2011). "NDP MP Thomas Mulcair questions Bin Laden pictures". National Post. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Kors, Alan (20 October 2015). "Former Carleton pub worker Brosseau re-elected in Quebec riding". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
- Jacob, Guillaume (23 July 2011). "Ruth-Ellen Brosseau inaugure son bureau". Le Nouvelliste (in French). Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Blatchford, Andy (23 April 2012). "NDP's 'Vegas' MP one year later: She's speaking French and planning to run again". The Chronicle Herald. Canadian Press. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Giese, Rachel (27 July 2015). "Ruth Ellen Brosseau: from 'Vegas Girl' to NDP vice-chair". Chatelaine. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Mulcair names NDP shadow cabinet". CBC News. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Press, Jordan (17 February 2013). "Student loan data breach affects NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau". Ottawa Citizen. canada.com. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- O'Connor, Joe (22 October 2015). "Canada's unlikeliest MP: Ruth Ellen Brosseau went from 'Vegas Girl' to NDP success story". National Post. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Kennedy, Mark (22 December 2014). "Q & A: Brosseau flourishes in Commons after rough start as 'Vegas girl'". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Kirkup, Kristy (12 November 2015). "Tom Mulcair taps Nathan Cullen, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron for top critic roles". CBC News. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- MacCharles, Tonda (18 May 2016). "Justin Trudeau 'manhandled' MP in Commons uproar, opposition says". Toronto Star. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- Slaughter, Graham (18 May 2016). "Trudeau accused of pushing, elbowing opposition MPs in House". CTV News. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- Tasker, John Paul (18 May 2016). "Justin Trudeau's elbowing incident leaves House in an uproar". CBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- Kirkup, Kristy (20 May 2016). "Ruth Ellen Brosseau target of personal attacks since being elbowed by Trudeau". CBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- "Ruth Ellen Brosseau: Liberals And Conservatives All Jump To MP's Defence". The Huffington Post Canada. The Canadian Press. 21 May 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
- Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Berthier—Maskinongé, 30 September 2015
- Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates