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NDP candidate takes mid-campaign vacation in Vegas

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

Some NDP candidates in Quebec might be itching for a trip to Vegas given their sudden run of good luck in the polls.

One of them has already jumped the gun.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau is the party's candidate in Berthier-Maskinongé, a riding north of the Saint Lawrence between Montreal and Trois-Rivières.

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Until last week, she'd been working in Ottawa - about three hours away from the riding - as an assistant manager of Oliver's Pub, on the Carleton University campus.

And this week?

"She's actually in Las Vegas," says her boss, Rod Castro. When first asked about Ms. Brosseau's candidacy, Mr. Castro told The Globe and Mail that there must be a mistake. But after looking her up online, he confirmed the candidate and his colleague are one and the same.

"This is all news to me," he said, noting that she has never mentioned politics in the more than two years they have worked together as the bar's only two full-time staff members.

Yet Ms. Brosseau and many other NDP candidates in Quebec may be in line for a ticket to the House of Commons next week, according to recent polls. An updated seat projection by EKOS predicts the NDP could win 51 of Quebec's 75 seats.

That would mean victory for the party's higher-profile candidates like former MP Françoise Boivin in Gatineau and actor Tyrone Benskin in Verdun, but it would also mean wins for candidates who are virtual unknowns and may not even live in the ridings they seek to represent.

NDP spokeswoman Kathleen Monk said Ms. Brosseau's vacation was booked before the election was called.

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"She couldn't cancel her vacation at the last minute. She's a single mother who booked an inexpensive fare," Ms. Monk wrote in an e-mail, which did not address how much time the candidate has spent in the riding or why she was selected. "New Democrats try and encourage people to get involved in politics, and running in a riding where we are building for the future is an excellent way to get started."

The vast majority of the party's Quebec candidates don't list any contact information with their profiles on the NDP sites. The slate of Quebec candidates includes union leaders, teachers and a Cree leader, Romeo Saganash.

Others are still in school.

Two candidates running for office are Charmaine Borg in Terrebonne-Blainville and Matthew Dubé in Chambly-Borduas. The two are co-presidents of the McGill NDP club. Mr. Dubé's posts on Twitter are largely devoted to hockey, comic books and computer games, with the occasional forward of tweets by NDP Leader Jack Layton.

Another, Sana Hassainia, who is running for the NDP in Verchères-Les Patriotes, makes no mention on her Twitter page of her NDP connections, except when asked by others to confirm that she is in fact the NDP candidate.

The latest EKOS survey has the NDP polling at 38.2 per cent in Quebec, ahead of the Bloc Québécois at 24.4 per cent, the Conservatives at 19 per cent and the Liberals at 14.7 per cent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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The regional numbers are a subsection of a larger national survey of 2,532 Canadians conducted between April 23-25.

Mr. Graves, the EKOS pollster, said he does not think issues like on-the-ground organization or the quality of a local candidate will mater given the strength of support for the NDP in Quebec right now.

"I'm guessing that this is kind of pan-Quebec, it's so strong," he said. "The Bloc are going to lose a lot of seats."

Mr. Layton has said his slate of Quebec candidates represents all parts of society and defended the fact that there are also some students representing the party. He noted that the party already has one of the youngest MP in the House of Commons: Niki Ashton, 29, of Manitoba.

"We need all sorts of people," Mr. Layton told reporters in Montreal over the weekend. "I think that's great for democracy."

When asked Tuesday about the low number of NDP campaign offices in the province, Mr. Layton would only say they had several.

"We're using all the techniques to get out the votes. Sometimes we use offices, sometimes we use networks of volunteers," he said.

This election is quite the change for habitual NDP candidates who have run and lost several times.

Philip Toone, a notary and teacher in Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, has run and lost for the NDP in Quebec twice before. This time, he said, it is clearly different.

"It's widespread and omnipresent," he said of the NDP support in the riding. Mr. Toone is one of several NDP candidates who do not have a campaign office. There is no big machine to identify and get out the vote, but Mr. Toone doesn't expect that will be a problem.

"As far as I can tell, I might very well have won it already," he said.

For Mr. Castro, the NDP wave in Quebec could mean he'll have to find a new assistant manager at Oliver's - an election result he certainly wasn't expecting.

"She'd requested vacation - which obviously we granted to her - and she said her plan was to go to Las Vegas," he said of Ms. Brosseau, who could not be reached by The Globe. "That's as much information as I knew."

With a report by Campbell Clark in Montreal

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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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