Skip to main content
editorial

Maybe you remember Vegas Girl: the anglophone Ottawa bartender and former teen mom who put her name forward for the NDP in a can't-win Quebec riding before a trip to Sin City for her 27th birthday – and got elected.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau became a symbol of the Orange Wave that earned a free seat in Parliament for anyone with the foresight or folly to stand as a Quebec New Democrat in 2011. She also became a bit of a laughingstock.

Well, Ms. Brosseau, the ultimate pylon candidate, was recently named NDP House Leader, in charge of the party's legislative tactics. The promotion appears well earned. By all accounts, she has become an exemplary MP, fluent in French, popular in her riding, on top of the issues and re-elected easily in 2015. She was even briefly mooted as a candidate to succeed Tom Mulcair as party leader.

Her success holds lessons for Canada's political class. The most important is that parties should not confine themselves to the stock field of lawyers, corporate types and political lifers when choosing candidates to run under their banner.

Daunting credentials may look good on a flyer, but they are given too much weight in campaigns. A common touch and a moral compass are just as valuable.

There is also an assumption that being a political prodigy requires a wonk-like commitment to party politics and a deep grasp of all the issues. Ms. Brosseau is obviously extremely bright and capable, but would a party have given her a chance were it not for the peculiar circumstances of the 2011 election?

This is not to say just anyone can thrive in politics. The job is difficult.

But at its best, politics is moralistic, and Ms. Brosseau is yet more evidence that it can be better served by a strong sense of right and wrong than by a polished resume.

When parties cast about for people to run in elections, they should look for fewer "star" candidates and for more plainspoken folk who aren't in it for the limelight, and who have a willingness to learn.

That is, more Ruth Ellen Brosseaus.