Forget the hapless Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the newly elected NDP MP for Berthier-Maskinongé who spent the final stretch of the campaign in Las Vegas, never set foot in the riding and hardly speaks French. (There are also allegations that signatures on her nomination papers are bogus.) That's funny - and it certainly indicates that Quebeckers were ready to vote for anyone or anything painted in orange.
As Montreal Gazette columnist Don Macpherson wrote, "Every time I pass an orange traffic cone now, I'm tempted to wave, because I think of my new member of Parliament."
In Quebec, such candidates are called poteaux - posts - symbolic candidates who don't bother to campaign because they don't have the slightest chance of winning. But the orange tsunami was such that Quebec is now sending 57 first-time Dippers to the House of Commons; among them are many individuals still stunned by their sudden change of status.
Poteaux, indeed, but, on closer study, a number of them are at least as qualified as the MPs from other parties Quebec used to send to Ottawa. Many of the rookie MPs were union activists and/or committed Dippers before they agreed to run. And contrary to the cartoon view that paints the NDP's Quebec caucus as one big daycare, they're not all students who've never held a real job.
Hélène Laverdière, who defeated Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, is a 55-year-old former career diplomat with a PhD from the University of Bath in England. She was posted in Ottawa, Washington and Senegal before becoming No. 2 at the Canadian embassy in Chile.
Robert Aubin, the MP for Trois-Rivières, is a musicologist who's been teaching for 25 years in a private college. Pierre Nantel (Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher) worked in the music industry for 20 years and was an artistic director for the Cirque du Soleil. José Nunez-Melo (Laval), is a mature civil servant with a BA in management from HEC Montréal.
Roméo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou) is a well-known Cree leader who's negotiated many accords with government. Christine Moore (Abitibi-Témiscamingue) is an intensive-care nurse. Hoang Mai (Brossard-La Prairie), worked as a lawyer in several Asian countries before opening his office in Quebec.
Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga), has an MA in anthropology and worked for 20 years at the Montreal Museum of Archeology. Jonathan Genest-Jourdain (Manicouagan) is a lawyer and a well-known Innu leader. Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert) is a psychologist and a mother of four involved in community work. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie) is a communications officer for CUPE-Quebec.
Françoise Boivin (Gatineau) is a lawyer and a former Liberal MP. Djaouida Sellah (Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert) was trained as a physician and is a mother of three. François Pilon (Laval-Les-Îles) has been a blue-collar worker for the city of Laval for many years. Tyrone Benskin (Jeanne-Le Ber) is artistic director of Montreal's Black Theatre Workshop and a national vice-president of ACTRA. Nycole Turmel (Hull-Aylmer) had a long career as a labour official in the federal civil service.
Even among the young new MPs, many - far from being "instant Dippers" - worked as NDP volunteers during previous campaigns. Even the baby of the group, 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dussault (Sherbrooke), has some political experience - he founded the NDP section at the Université de Sherbrooke, in addition to holding a part-time job at a golf club and studying political science.
In any case, who would dare say Parliament doesn't need a breath of fresh air?