How Emmanuella Lambropoulos scored an upset win in Saint-Laurent

Emmanuella Lambropoulos, a 26-year-old teacher, will represent the Liberals in an upcoming byelection. She beat out a political heavyweight to secure the nomination. But how?

Teacher, 26, surprised even herself by winning Liberal nomination over political heavyweight Yolande James

Emmanuella Lambropoulos reacts after winning the Liberal party nomination for the riding of Saint-Laurent in Montreal on Wednesday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

That a 26-year-old teacher beat out a seasoned provincial politician in the race to represent a Montreal federal Liberal stronghold came as a shock to many, including the teacher herself.

Emmanuella Lambropoulos secured the Liberal nomination to represent the Saint-Laurent riding in an upcoming byelection Wednesday night, and she didn't hide her amazement.

"I'm surprised that I won," she said. "The media had no idea that I was running, and a lot of people came here not knowing who I was."

She scored an upset over the presumed frontrunner, former provincial immigration minister Yolande James, as well as Marwah Rizqy, a law professor who ran for the party in a different riding in the 2015 election.

Of the 5,000 eligible voters, only about 1,350 cast ballots.

James was eliminated in the first round of voting. Lambropoulos won in the second round, garnering 626 votes to Rizqy's 508.

The byelection itself will take place on April 3.

So who is Lambropoulos and how did she do it?

Emmanuella Lambropoulos in disbelief after securing Liberal nomination

6 years ago
Duration 0:32
Emmanuella Lambropoulos was in disbelief after securing the Liberal nomination to represent the Saint-Laurent riding in an upcoming byelection.

Local candidate

Lambropoulos is from Saint-Laurent, a point she says she stressed while going door-to-door in the lead-up to the nomination vote.

Yolande James is consoled by Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia after failing to win the party nomination. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

"I was born, raised and live in Ville Saint-Laurent. You may have seen me in one of our beautiful parks, playing tennis," she said.

For a month and a half, she said, she went out every day for at least three hours and knocked on doors, a move she believes demonstrated to voters that she cared about and understood their concerns.

She went to Vanier College and then attended McGill University, where she got a bachelor of education, specializing in secondary education and teaching.

She also served as the president of the McGill Hellenic Students Association.

She has taught at Lauren Hill Academy and currently works at Rosemount High School, according to her LinkedIn page.

'Forget the noise, forget the machine'

Lambropoulos's mother, Matina, said their team headquarters was "grandma's living room."

Lambropoulos's father Tom said there wasn't a big secret to their success — they were passionate and his daughter was motivated.

Tom Lambropoulos said the family had a small team that worked hard to secure the Liberal nomination for his daughter, Emmanuella. (Radio-Canada)

"Our team was only four or five people but we worked harder, I think," he said.

"Forget the noise, forget the machine, just work."

He said there is a large Greek community in the riding as well, which may have wanted to see one of their own make it to the House of Commons.

Dion connection

Lambropoulos said she's always been interested in politics and volunteered with Stéphane Dion in the riding.

Dion was first elected in Saint-Laurent in 1996. He was shuffled out of cabinet and left politics in January.

Emmanuella Lambropoulos worked with Stéphane Dion while he represented the Saint-Laurent riding (Facebook/Emmanuella Lambropoulos)

When asked if Lambropoulos's victory had anything to do with residual bitterness over how Dion was treated, John Babaroutsis, a friend of Lambropoulos's who worked on her campaign, said he didn't think so.

He credited her ability to bring people together for her win.

Lambropoulos said though Dion didn't publicly throw his support behind her, she believes he is proud she won.

She told reporters she wasn't fazed by the perception that James was the favourite to win the nomination.

"I think that if she had been the favourite, I wouldn't have won," she said.

A clear message

Longtime Saint-Laurent borough Mayor Alan DeSousa said he wasn't surprised by the results.

DeSousa was barred from seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding and said he was never told why.

He said he believes his candidacy would have been too strong a threat to James's, so instead of having a tight race, the party removed her strongest competition.

Voters chose Lambropoulos to send the Liberals a message, DeSousa said.

"People felt that it was wrong, people felt that it was done unfairly, and people felt they wanted to say something about it, and the only avenue that they had open was the ballot they chose to vote on," he said.

Saint-Laurent borough mayor Alan DeSousa said he is the most 'grassroots' candidate for the federal riding of Saint-Laurent. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

"The process might be deemed to be open and fair and accessible, but in real life that is not the case …. The weight of the party is thrown behind that chosen candidate. The scales are not just tipped, they put elephants on the scales."

DeSousa said the party either should ensure the nominations process is truly open, or the prime minister should name candidates openly and take responsibility for their decisions.

"If we want to maintain the credibility of our democratic institutions, especially at a time where people tend to be quite cynical, we need to make sure we take all the means possible to encourage democratic participation, not exclude people."

With files from Radio-Canada's Louis Blouin, The Canadian Press, CBC's Daybreak and Alison Northcott


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