When the Conservatives roared back to life in Quebec City last year, winning back five of seven seats, much of the credit fell to first-time candidate Gérard Deltell.
The 51-year-old rookie MP is now a rising star on the Conservative benches in the House, and stands to be a key player in the party’s leadership race.
Little known outside of Quebec, Mr. Deltell is a fixture of political life in his home province. Before running for federal office, he had been a prominent opposition MNA and party leader for seven years, after nearly two decades as television journalist.
A strong supporter of the military, Mr. Deltell is a long-time Conservative and proud Canadian who loves to argue there are many more right-wingers in Quebec than most people want to believe.
He won his riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent in the northern part of Quebec City with just over 50 per cent of the vote on Oct. 19. But his personal popularity – in full display as he canvassed with lesser-known candidates – also helped the Conservatives to win back seats in Quebec City that were lost to the NDP Orange Wave in 2011.
While he is getting prodded by some of his new colleagues to try his luck at the leadership, odds are he will use his influence in Quebec to give a boost to his chosen candidate.
“Gérard carried candidates on his shoulders during the election and helped a lot of people get elected,” a senior Conservative organizer from Quebec said. “Getting his support [in the leadership race] will be really important, because it will symbolize the support of Quebec City, where there are many members.”
Mr. Deltell said, in his view, Stephen Harper’s successor must be fluent enough in French to take on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the election debates in 2019 – and be a unifying force for the party.
“The worst thing that could happen in the coming process is for us to have a Reform candidate and an Alliance candidate and a Progressive Conservative candidate,” Mr. Deltell said. “We will only have Conservative candidates, period, and we will elect a Conservative leader, period.”
A son of Algerian immigrants of French origin, Mr. Deltell was born and grew up in Quebec City. He said he naturally adopted conservative values, inheriting a love of military tradition from his father, who was a veteran of the Second World War.
Mr. Deltell admired Joe Clark as a teenager, impressed by the Albertan’s efforts to speak French and defend the interests of Quebec, despite his limited electoral successes in the province. Mr. Deltell took a membership in the Progressive Conservative Party in 1981, and got summer jobs with the Tories in Ottawa in 1982 and 1983.
After he finished his studies in history in Quebec City, he started a long career in television journalism that ended when his last employer, TQS, shut down its news operations in 2008. Later that year, Mr. Deltell won a seat for the Action Démocratique du Québec, an economically right-wing party with a strong nationalist agenda. He was the leader of the party when it merged with another formation to create the Coalition Avenir Québec in 2012.
His relations eventually soured with CAQ Leader François Legault, who dubbed Mr. Deltell a “second-line player” in 2014 and subsequently dropped him as his House Leader.
Around that time, Mr. Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, Conservative MP Denis Lebel, started to court Mr. Deltell and eventually convinced him to move up to federal politics.
Ottawa is turning out to be a great fit for Mr. Deltell. In the National Assembly, he sometimes had to bite his tongue as he publicly defended the positions of the ADQ and CAQ in favour of greater autonomy for Quebec.
“I’m a right-wing federalist,” said the father of two children in their early 20s. “I am very happy where I’m at these days.”
Mr. Deltell is often the main francophone spokesman at Conservative Party news conference, alongside interim Leader Rona Ambrose or more experienced MPs. He knows how to feed clips to reporters, but he also has skills in the House of Commons, where he often grills the government, including Mr. Trudeau, on economic issues.
The Conservative Party’s employment and labour critic, Mr. Deltell said the next election will be fought on economic issues.
“Watch the hangover, in three or four years, people will be waking up with a massive headache,” he said of the growing federal deficits.
Looking to the future, Mr. Deltell said the Conservative Party could benefit from “softening some of its edges.” Still, he cares mostly about the party’s ongoing commitment to core values such as smaller government, expanding personal liberties and having strong positions on international and defence issues.
While he loves politics in Parliament, he remains grounded in Quebec City, listening to local radio on the Internet every morning to stay in touch with issues that affect his constituents.
“After I have spent three days in Ottawa, I start looking forward to going back home,” said Mr. Deltell. “It’s clear in my head, I will never move full-time to Ottawa.”Report Typo/Error