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The Globe and Mail

A new crop, a diverse Parliament and one exhausted spokesman

Newly-elected NDP MP Laurin Liu speaks to reporters during a post-election news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, May 3, 2011, as fellow MP Pierre Nantel and NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair, right, look on.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Depending on the outcome of a couple of recounts, about 100 new MPs will be climbing Parliament Hill when the House returns. While that's well over the 66 first-timers in the 2008 contest, the number is about average for an election year.

What's unusual here though is not the quantity but the quality. The 41st Parliament's rookie MPs run the gamut from experienced veterans of the foreign service to Canada's youngest-ever member of parliament.

There will be 77 women in the House - a quarter of the seats and more than ever in Canada's history.

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Along with that baby-step closer towards gender parity, the MPs entering the House - such as Romeo Saganash, who represented the Grand Council of Crees and is now NDP MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, or Chinese-Canadian businessman Chungsen Leung, a Tory who now represents Willowdale - reflect a more varied portrait of the Canadians they purport to represent.

The Conservatives, recognizing a fertile area of untapped potential supporters, made unprecedented strides into Canada's ethnic exurbs: In addition to Mr. Leung, new Tory MPs include Parm Gil and Bal Gosal in the GTA; and Alice Wong, Wai Young and Nina Grewal in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

New MPs from diverse backgrounds are seen as a good thing when it comes to revitalizing Parliament and giving Canadians hope that the people they vote for are human and relatable, rather than distant political entities. Alison Loat, executive director of the democratic-engagement research group Samara, notes MPs tend to be more varied than jaded voters give them credit.

"The NDP as Official Opposition really changes the hue of Parliament both in terms of tenor, substance and style," says Queen's University political scientist Jonathan Rose. "How this shapes up one won't know until Parliament meets again."

To get a sense of the kind of sea change facing parties who've successfully elected candidates they never thought had a shot at Parliament Hill, spend a few moments talking to NDP spokesman Marc-André Viau.

He hasn't slept much - he's spent much of the past 36 hours dealing with, literally, hundreds of phone calls from reporters dumbfounded by the new crop of MPs his party is sending to the House of Commons.

"Fifty-eight MPs in Quebec is very different than one," he said wearily Tuesday evening, adding quickly, "I'd rather have this problem than to be in the other situation."

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