Ruth Ellen Brosseau
Ruth Ellen Brosseau
|Member of the Canadian Parliament|
May 2, 2011 – September 11, 2019
|Preceded by||Guy André|
|Succeeded by||Yves Perron|
|House Leader for the New Democratic Party|
January 31, 2018 – March 14, 2019
|Preceded by||Peter Julian|
|Succeeded by||Peter Julian|
|Born||April 26, 1984|
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
|Political party||New Democratic Party|
Ruth Ellen Brosseau (born April 26, 1984) is a Canadian politician who represented the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé in the House of Commons from the 2011 election until her defeat in 2019. She is a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
In Brosseau's first election campaign, she gained national attention for her surprising rise from a "paper candidate" to a viable contestant, and gained the nickname "Vegas Girl" for a mid-election vacation to Las Vegas. She won reelection in the 2015 election with a larger vote share despite her party falling from second to third place nationally. Her parliamentary roles included House Leader of the NDP, critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food, and deputy NDP caucus chair.
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 was educated in French both in Quebec and in Ontario. She attended St. Lawrence College in Kingston, but left prior to completing her diploma.
Before her election to Parliament, Brosseau was an 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 is a single mother. She gave birth when she was 17 and finished high school partly through the use of correspondence courses. Her son does not have any contact with his biological father.
By 2019, Brosseau was in a relationship with Nicolas Gauthier, a farmer in Yamachiche, Quebec, a village in her riding of Berthier—Maskinongé. Before her defeat in the 2019 federal election, Brosseau stated that she planned to remain in the area regardless of the outcome of the election.
Brosseau first ran for a seat to the House of Commons of Canada in the 2011 federal election, 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, chose 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. She agreed to run after being asked by politically active friends who frequented the bar she worked.
The vegetarian Brosseau knew nothing about politics or the riding, with many pork and beef farmers, and a travel time of three-and-one-half hours away from her Ottawa home by car; she did not campaign and never went to the riding, which straddles Lanaudière and Mauricie. During the election, Brosseau went on vacation to 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. The media mocked her as "Vegas girl", but NDP leader Jack Layton defended Brosseau's decision to vacation, 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.
Brosseau's proficiency in French was unclear; 98% of Berthier-Maskinongé's residents are francophone, and 77 percent of them do not speak English, while she was unable to conduct an interview in French when elected. 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 said, "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, and TVA Nouvelles said that she spoke "a French almost without accent".
Brosseau 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. Chatelaine said in 2015 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 defective home foundations built with 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. The New York Times attributed Brosseau's reelection to her focus on the pyrrhotite issue.
In May 2016, an incident in the House of Commons arose where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accidentally hit Brosseau in the chest. The controversial situation arose after Trudeau was attempting to lead Conservative Party Whip Gord Brown to his seat so a scheduled vote could take place. Leading up to the incident dubbed "Elbowgate", the Opposition parties had accused the government trying to ram Bill C-14 through the House and Senate, using various strategies like assigning a time limit to debate and giving enormous powers to ministers. 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. It was referred to in the House of Commons as "the matter of the physical molestation of the Member from Berthier—Maskinongé".
In the October 21, 2019 general election, the NDP lost all of their remaining seats in Quebec except the one held by party regional lieutenant Alexandre Boulerice. Brosseau was defeated by Bloc Québécois candidate Yves Perron who won 21,007 votes (37.4%) to her 19,500 (34.7%).
|2019 Canadian federal election: Berthier—Maskinongé|
|Bloc Québécois||Yves Perron||21,200||37.62||+11.82|
|New Democratic||Ruth Ellen Brosseau||19,698||34.95||-7.22|
|Rhinoceros||Martin Acetaria Caesar Jubinville||151||0.27||–|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||56,354||100.0|
|Total rejected ballots||977||1.16||+0.14|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|2015 Canadian federal election|
|New Democratic||Ruth Ellen Brosseau||22,942||42.24%||+2.61||$41,378.43|
|Bloc Québécois||Yves Perron||13,969||25.72%||−3.66||$54,785.38|
|Green||Victoria Cate May Burton||844||1.55%||−0.55||$0|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||–||100.0||$218,838.34|
|Total rejected ballots||–||–||–|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|2011 Canadian federal election: 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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