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NDP candidate back from Vegas - and has a shot at winning seat

NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who is running in the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinonge.

She's just back from Vegas, her French needs work and the party can't confirm whether she's even set foot in the riding, but a new poll shows NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau is within striking distance of winning a seat in Parliament.

The single mother who lives in Gatineau, Que., and works in Ottawa as an assistant manager of a Oliver's pub at Carleton University in Ottawa is a classic parachute candidate.

Yet there's no sign that her parachute ever landed in Berthier-Maskinongé, a Quebec riding near Trois-Rivières that is about a three-hour drive from her home.

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Local media say she has not granted any interviews and an NDP spokesman could not confirm whether she ever visited the riding.

"She is both excited and nervous," said NDP spokesman Marc-André Viau, who has spoken with Ms. Brosseau since she returned from a previously scheduled vacation in Las Vegas. Another NDP spokesman had told The Canadian Press that Ms. Brosseau was "a little freaked out" by the sudden media attention.

"She was not ready to do a press conference, but she's learning," said Mr. Viau, who said she will need to "perfect" her French-language skills. "She will be learning in the days to come to be more confident to talk to media and to be a public figure. So if she's elected, we'll make sure that she's ready."

As The Globe and Mail first reported Tuesday, Ms. Brosseau kept working at the pub in Ottawa throughout the campaign and then took a vacation to Las Vegas. Her manager at the bar told The Globe he had no idea his assistant was running for public office.

Now a survey released Thursday by Cible recherche shows Ms. Brosseau is firmly in second place. The poll of 503 residents in the riding found Bloc Québécois incumbent Guy André is in the lead with 36-per-cent support, followed by Ms. Brosseau at 29 per cent. Francine Gaudet of the Liberals is at 17 per cent and Mari-Claude Godue of the Conservatives at 15 per cent.

It is not known how Ms. Brosseau became an NDP candidate. A brief biography on the NDP website states that "for many years Ruth Ellen has committed her time and energy to finding homes for stray animals in her community."

A survey of 513 people in the neighbouring riding of Trois-Rivières found the NDP candidate, Robert Aubin, is well ahead of Bloc incumbent Paule Brunelle, with 42-per-cent support compared to 28 per cent. The Conservatives are in third with 17 per cent and the Liberals are in fourth with 8 per cent.

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All parties must regularly scramble to find candidates in ridings that are considered virtually hopeless at the outset of a campaign. However, the surprising rise of the NDP in Quebec means some of these candidates - people who are simply a name on the ballot - could find themselves elected to Parliament on Monday.

Meanwhile, the NDP confirmed that another one of its Quebec candidates, Isabelle Maguire, running in the riding of Richmond-Arthabaska, is now in France.

Mr. Viau acknowledged that the surge in NDP support in the province of Quebec came as a surprise even to them.

"We were in a campaign where we were expecting growth, but this is bigger movement than what we expected," he said. "Some of the candidates were not expecting this."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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