LOUISEVILLE, Que. — Elusive NDP rookie Ruth Ellen Brosseau finally visited the Quebec riding she will represent in the House of Commons and, while she struggled a bit with the local language, she appeared to be making a new friends.
A paparazzi-style crush of journalists were there and curious locals greeted the new MP. Afterwards some of the residents had nice things to say about the initial encounter with their new representative in Parliament.
It was locals’ first chance to meet a rookie politician who had triumphed, without any discernible effort, and against seemingly insurmountable odds: She lived 300 kms away and worked at a pub in Ontario, she vacationed in Las Vegas during the election, had never set foot in her constituency, and supposedly didn’t speak much French.
After the election Brosseau remained out of sight as the party said it would prepare her for public exposure by giving her some intensive French lessons. She has now begun doing interviews, grasping for words and occasionally stumbling, but always speaking French.
On Wednesday, she made a number of appearances in the riding — accompanied by the NDP’s Quebec lieutenant, Thomas Mulcair.
“Everyone is very nice,” she said in curt, passable French before visiting the municipal library in the rural community of St-Justin.
“I’m very excited.” Then, she added in English: “I’m very happy to be here.”
Earlier, Brosseau was met by a crowd of journalists and locals as she descended the front steps of Louiseville town hall.
She spoke briefly with people outside. She met privately with area decision-makers.
According to participants in one meeting, she insisted on struggling along in the language of her constituents — speaking in French even when they addressed her in English.
“It’s not bad — she has an accent but at least she speaks French,” said another resident, Daniel Ringuette.
He said he’s just happy she finally visited the riding: “I even invited her to come play tennis with us,” he said.
The perpetually smiling MP appeared to have already won over a few other people in town. One truck honked as it passed her on Louiseville’s main drag.
The reaction from area officials was equally generous.
“She speaks French so well, it’s surprising,” said Louiseville mayor Guy Richard, after their meeting at the town hall.
“I think we will have a very good MP.”
Mulcair appeared to run interference for his new protege over the course of the day. He rushed her away at the sight of the first national television camera crew.
His rookie MP had approached the journalist, smiling warmly and promising they would have a chance to speak later: “We’ll see each other,” Brosseau said in French.
But Mulcair announced they had a busy schedule and announced they would need to move along.
The Quebec lieutenant laded added that Brosseau will be an ”excellent MP” who will serve her constituents well. Over the course of the day, things loosened up somewhat and she engaged in longer exchanges with media.
An administrator at a small museum in Lavaltrie says Brosseau visited for two hours. Throughout that time, the MP apparently declined several invitations to switch the conversation to English.
Museum director Michelle Picard said the encounter was pleasant. She said Brosseau read a short speech in French for a few minutes, then asked lots of questions about the museum and appeared to take an interest.
“Her French is quite good,” Picard said.
“I think she understands more than she can speak. . . She’s a very nice person, very easy to talk to.”
The museum director said that, because Brosseau had been “invisible” since the election,“ people were wondering if she’d ever show up. Picard said the Vegas vacation never came up Wednesday: ”We were not here for politics.“
The 27-year-old neophyte politician stunned everyone by handily winning the central Quebec riding — despite never setting foot in the region.
The NDP acknowledged during the campaign that her French needs improvement for her to be an effective representative of a riding that is 98 per cent francophone.