Four McGill students, including the co-presidents of the university’s New Democratic Party Club, were elected to serve in Canada’s national parliament last night.
The New Democratic Party, long a marginal player in Canadian politics, made stunning gains last night, nearly doubling its previous best-ever vote percentage and almost tripling the number of seats it holds in parliament. With the Conservative Party winning a governing majority, the NDP now stands as Canada’s official opposition for the first time.
These gains came largely at the expense of the Quebec nationalist party Bloc Québécois, whose support collapsed to less than one fourth of voters in its home province. The NDP took 45 of its 68 new seats nationally from the BC, and the wave of voter support that carried it to that result often brought victory to candidates who had entered the race with no expectation of winning.
The most notorious example of this is Ruth Ellen Brousseau, an NDP candidate who lives a three-hour drive away from her district, works full-time in a bar, and left the country for a Las Vegas family vacation in the middle of the campaign. Despite not giving any interviews or campaigning in her district — and despite rumors that in a Francophone district she speaks only clumsy French — Brousseau won election last night with forty percent of the vote.
The student winners’ stories aren’t as colorful, but they’re no less weird. Charmaine Borg, the new MP for Terrebonne-Blainville, has a four-sentence bio on the NDP website. Matthew Dubé had just 87 Twitter followers on election day … and apparently took down his Twitter account that night. Laurin Liu ran for (and won) re-election to the board of directors of McGill’s student radio station just a few weeks ago.
As co-presidents of the McGill NDP club, Dubé and Borg apparently spent most of their time this election working to re-elect a local NDP incumbent, not even mentioning their own candidacies in an April 5 student newspaper article on the campaign.
Each of these three candidates now must make plans to move to Ottawa to begin a career as a legislator, a job that carries a $157,731 annual salary.
I haven’t been able to find any of the new legislators’ ages online, by the way, but eligibility won’t be a problem — any Canadian citizen 18 years old or older is eligible to serve in parliament. (In the US, in contrast, you need to be 25 to serve in the House of Representatives.)