How the MP rookie class of 2011 fared in Year 1
Some new politicians stood out in their 1st year on Parliament Hill
More than 100 first-time MPs were elected on May 2, 2011, in one of the biggest and most diverse groups of rookies to ever take their seats in the House of Commons.
Their ages ranged from 19 to 70; some were still enrolled at university, while others left jobs in law, medicine and bartending to launch a political chapter in their lives.
Some members of the Class of 2011 had been trying for years to get to Parliament Hill and fought hard to beat the incumbent MP, while others cruised to victory without knocking on a single door in their riding.
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Conservatives Parm Gill and Roxanne James, for example, won on their third attempts, unseating Liberals in the Greater Toronto Area, a key territory that helped the Tories win their first majority government.
John Williamson quit his job as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications so he could go back to New Brunswick and ready his ultimately successful campaign. Mark Strahl, meanwhile, followed in the footsteps of his father, former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, and won his dad's old seat in British Columbia.
And then there were the MPs who agreed to let their names stand on a ballot with little chance of winning. New Democrat Ruth Ellen Brousseau, for example, had never even stepped foot in her Quebec riding and made headlines when it was revealed she was on vacation in Las Vegas during the campaign. Upon election, she quit her job managing a student bar in Ottawa and now the 28-year-old single mom says she enjoys being a Quebec MP and will run again in 2015.
Brosseau's caucus colleague Pierre-Luc Dusseault was a 19-year-old student who was supposed to work at a golf course last summer. A year later, he's not just a member of Parliament, but is chair of the House of Commons privacy, information and ethics committee.
What a difference a year can make.
With the Class of 2011 celebrating its first anniversary, here's a look at some of the rookies who made an impression and what it might mean for their futures on Parliament Hill.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver: This graduate of Harvard's business school and former investment banker defeated longtime Liberal MP Joe Volpe in what pundits had called "the battle of the Joes" in a key riding in central Toronto. Oliver, who turns 72 this month, was rewarded with a seat at the cabinet table and has been a high-profile minister over the last year, particularly on the Keystone XL pipeline issue. He will continue to be front and centre over the coming months as the government implements a major overhaul of the environmental assessment process. The Tories call it responsible resource development but critics call it disastrous and Oliver's going to have to fend off a lot of attacks in the coming months.
Conservative MP Chris Alexander: His resumé preceded him. Alexander was known when he arrived on Parliament Hill as Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan and it didn't come as a big surprise when he was named a parliamentary secretary. He assists National Defence Minister Peter MacKay and is a regular on the MP panel circuit on political talk shows, often defending the government on the F-35 fighter jet file. Given the auditor general's recent report on the planes, Alexander, 43, will continue to be a familiar face — and unlike the CF-18s, he's not due to retire any time soon.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel: The Calgary MP started getting noticed in December when Environment Minister Peter Kent was away in South Africa at the United Nations conference on climate change. As his parliamentary secretary, Rempel was left to defend the government's record on the environment. The 32-year-old impressed Parliament Hill watchers with her confidence and ability to think on her feet without relying on talking points like some of her older, more experienced colleagues.
Green Party MP and leader Elizabeth May: May made history last year when she became the first Green MP to win a seat in the House of Commons. That seat is in the very back corner of the chamber, but she's finally there nonetheless. Because she's a lone MP she doesn't have party standing, but she's still been able to wield some influence over what goes on in the Commons. She denied unanimous consent, for example, on the motion to extend Canada's mission in Libya. As the Conservatives move forward with their environmental law policy overhaul, May will continue to be a feisty voice on the Hill.
NDP MP Nycole Turmel: When Jack Layton announced last July he was stepping down to focus on treatment of a new cancer diagnosis and said he wanted Quebec MP Nycole Turmel to fill in as leader, many asked, Nycole who? She wasn't a familiar face on Parliament Hill, but the former union leader ended up leading a caucus that was filled with rookies like her, as the party transitioned to its new status as Official Opposition and also mourned the death of Layton in August. Turmel served as interim leader until March 24 when Tom Mulcair was elected and she now has a new role as the NDP's whip. Turmel, came out of retirement from her union job to enter politics last year, will be in her early 70s when the next election comes around in 2015, and may want to retire from public life for good then.
Liberal MP Ted Hsu: He didn't let his party down and kept Kingston and the Islands in Liberal hands after Peter Milliken, the longtime MP and Speaker of the House of Commons, retired. With the government's announcement that it plans to close Kingston Penitentiary, a major employer in his riding, Hsu could become more vocal on the Hill over the coming months.
NDP MPs Robert Chisholm and Romeo Saganash: New to Parliament but not new to the world of politics, both men threw their hats in the ring when the NDP leadership race kicked off last September, and both ended up withdrawing before it was over. They've both been given new critic roles by Mulcair, Saganash as international development critic and Chisholm, a Nova Scotia MP, in the fisheries portfolio. Chisholm pulled out of the leadership race because he wasn't learning French fast enough and Saganash because he wasn't raising enough money. The race helped their public profiles, however, and the experience could serve them well if they were ever to try again.
NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice: The Quebec MP started making an impression early on when he and Charlie Angus were tag-teaming in question period on Tony Clement and his role in the G8 and G20 spending. Boulerice had no trouble displaying his indignation and he'll continue to be on his feet in the House as Mulcair's new labour critic.