Is election of students another sign MPs are faceless?

Young MPs will be under the microscope

When Parliament resumes, the NDP’s Quebec delegation will include some of the youngest MPs ever elected.

On Monday night, Quebecers elected nine of the 11 university students running as NDP candidates in the province. At least two other new NDP MPs from Quebec are recent graduates.

Among the students is Canada’s youngest MP ever, Pierre-Luc Dusseault, an applied politics student at Université de Sherbrooke.

It definitely seems as though campaigning was optional for NDP candidates in Quebec. Charmaine Borg, one of several McGill students elected, didn’t speak to the local paper in Terrebonne-Blainville, the riding she represents, until election night. She spent most of the campaign in Montreal, helping out with Thomas Mulcair’s reelection effort.

She’s not the only young NDP MP coming under scrutiny, Isabelle Morin, a Université de Sherbrooke student who was elected in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine, did her first interview with the Montreal Gazette on Tuesday. She told the paper that she had, in fact, been campaigning door-to-door in the riding and that, despite earlier reports, she could speak English, an important skill for the representative of a largely anglophone riding.

I probably don’t even need to mention the most infamous of the new NDP MPs, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the Vegas-vacationing Ottawa bartender who still hasn’t spoken to any media.

The high level of scrutiny these MPs are under probably won’t be letting up soon, media here in Quebec will be watching to see if these new representatives open offices in their ridings and, in some cases, as they meet their constituents for the first time.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this new crop of MPs.

I’m glad that ordinary young Canadians are taking seats in Parliament. I think that many of these young MPs will end up impressing people. Dusseault, in particular, has proven himself to be quite articulate. Even though most of these new MPs did not expect to win, all of them are engaged with, and clearly active in, Canadian politics, otherwise they would not have stood for election in the first place.

But I am concerned about what the election of these MPs says about the state of our system. None of these candidates were elected because of who they are, their record or their experience. No, they were elected because of the party they represent and that party’s leader.

To me, this is just another sign that MPs have become faceless, interchangeable representatives of their parties, rather than local individuals who represent their communities. There’s a reason we vote for candidates, not for parties or leaders.

Also, I’m a little jealous of these new MPs. They’ll all be looking at annual salaries of over $150,000 for, at least, the next four years.