Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the NDP's new Quebec MP who can't (yet) speak French

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Another political post today. Quebec voted overwhelmingly for the NDP in the election two days ago, and in the midst of this so-called orange wave (the NDP's traditional colour is orange) a number of people were elected that certainly would not have made it under different circumstances. The two new MPs that are getting the most attention are a guy who is just 19 years old (checks's Pierre-Luc Dussealt), now the youngest MP in Canada's history, and Ruth Ellen Brosseau. She is not only young (27), but also does not speak very much French, does not live in the district she now represents, was away in Las Vegas during much of the campaign season, and has yet to appear before the media. She is also being accused now of falsifying the nomination papers.

Now, assuming that everything blows over and she resurfaces and enters Parliament, it'll be up to her to learn French as fast as humanly possible. This will be interesting to watch as though Canada has a bilingual parliament, there are few situations where an MP is absolutely expected to know Canada's other official language fluently: 1) when you're running for Prime Minister, and 2) when you're in Quebec and have French as a mother tongue, or the opposite situation. The former happened with Preston Manning before when he was asked how he intended to be a national leader without knowing French (it's too bad he didn't know it because I love Preston Manning), and the latter most recently with Stephane Dion, who had a heavy French accent when he spoke English.

Brosseau is most certainly being prepped by party insiders right now and given a crash course in French, and assuming she reappears soon and is asked questions in French we'll be able to see how good it is now and compare it to later on. Apparently she is somewhat proficient:

When asked about his daughter's French proficiency, Marc replied, "The quality of (her) French is good. It's just if she wants to rise to the occasion, she speaks it, but let's just say it's not at a high proficiency level."

Sounds like my French.

Since there is now a majority government there is a lot of time before election season comes around again, and it'll be interesting to see which of the unexpected MPs actually have a knack for politics and grow with the job, and which clearly aren't cut out for it. I get the impression that Dussealt will turn out fine in spite of his young age. Something about a double name with a hyphenated -Luc on the end just feels right.


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