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Deputy NDP leader Thomas Mulcair meets with supporters as voters cast their ballots in Montreal on May 2, 2011. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Deputy NDP leader Thomas Mulcair meets with supporters as voters cast their ballots in Montreal on May 2, 2011. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

New Democrats

Students, ex-Communist, <br/>a Cree leader and more join NDP's swollen Quebec ranks Add to ...

A massive team of new NDP MPs are coming to Ottawa from all over the province of Quebec - including many who simply allowed their name to stand on the ballot with no expectations of victory.

The most remarkable example of candidates sweeping into office on Jack Layton's coattails is Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who won in Berthier-Maskinongé ( see results). Ms. Brosseau - who lives in Gatineau, Que. - spent most of the campaign working in an Ottawa pub, where she is an assistant manager. That meant she was nowhere to be seen in the riding, which is about a three hour's drive east. The party did not object when she followed through with a planned mid-campaign vacation to Las Vegas.

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She didn't grant any interviews during the campaign and the party acknowledges she needs to improve her French, even though residents in the riding are almost exclusively francophone.

In one night, the party went from one NDP seat to 58.

The NDP's Quebec sweep means several students who are midway through their post-secondary studies are now in line for annual salaries of $157,731.

Deputy leader Thomas Mulcair, who was the only Quebec NDP MP heading in to the election, played down the inexperience of Ms. Brosseau and others.

"It's always the same way with any political party. You know, when the Bloc [Québécois]used to elect 50 people, beyond the first two or three that you knew in the Bloc, name me five others," he told a reporter on CBC television early Tuesday morning. "I mean, it's always the same way. We've got a core group of candidates with a lot of experience, a second concentric circle of people who have their own degree of experience in other areas and some with less, but I mean, when you look at the younger people who get elected, they learn their trade very quickly."

Even though no one would have predicted so many NDP victories in Quebec at the start of the campaign, the party did attract several accomplished individuals as candidates who will be coming to Ottawa as part of the sweep.

Among them is Hoang Mai, who won in Brossard-La Prairie ( see results), has an international law background and trained at The Hague. Another, Djaouida Sellah, who won Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert ( see results), is a doctor who volunteered in the first Gulf War. Last-minute candidate Romeo Saganash, a respected Cree leader, won easily in Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou ( see results).

Yet others faced little scrutiny over their backgrounds during the campaigns. Two students who are co-presidents of the McGill NDP club won with low-profile campaigns - Charmaine Borg in Terrebonne-Blainville ( results) and Matthew Dubé in Chambly-Borduas ( see results).

There were suggestions during the campaign that some NDP candidates harboured sovereignist sympathies, while foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon ( see results) was defeated by the NDP's Mathieu Ravignat, who once ran for office as a Communist.

The challenge for Mr. Layton will be to ensure this success is not a one-time event. Quebeckers have embraced massive change before - at both the federal and provincial levels - only to switch again later.

"We've got a lot of men and women who understand Quebec, who understand the need for Quebec to be respected," Mr. Mulcair said. "About half of the NDP caucus is going to be from Quebec, so we're going to work hard."

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