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Why voters elected the NDP's 'Vegas girl' anyway

Quebec NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who took a Vegas vacation during the election campaign, is shown in a handout photo.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The fact NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau was "shaking dice rather than shaking hands" did not concern voters, according to a new post-election analysis. Rather it is the party leader Canadians vote for, not the local candidate.

Ensight Canada, a government relations and strategic communications company, conducted 12 focus groups across the country - from Vancouver to Halifax - just hours after Canadians voted Monday. Ensight wanted to test how and why people cast their ballots the way they did and what they expect of the new majority Conservative government.

In addition, the focus group analysis looks at the potential of polarization in the country: What does this left-right split mean? And what does it mean for voters who are looking for a centrist party? What does an NDP opposition and Tory government mean for business?

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The results will be previewed later Thursday morning at a news conference, but we have a few tidbits:

The exit poll analysis found that everyone knew about the NDP's so-called "Vegas girl." Indeed, Ms. Brosseau won office even though it was well-publicized that she barely spoke French, that she had spent little time during the election in her Quebec riding and that she went to Vegas on holiday.

"Participants told us they see this as proof that Canadians voted based on parties and leaders rather than their local candidate," Ensight's Jacquie LaRocque told The Globe. "Hardly a single participant across the entire country told us they voted for their local candidate."

In addition, participants talked about a merger - but not one between the Liberals and NDP. Rather, Ms. LaRocque said that some Canadians were looking at a "Christmas Party - a red tree with deep roots, but decorated with green tinsel." So should Elizabeth May's Green Party merge with the defeated Liberals?

Ms. LaRocque noted, too, that focus group participants wanted MPs to get along with each other. She said the "exact words" repeated over and over again were for MPs to "play nice." But they were resigned to the fact that this is one demand the electorate "just won't get."

Are Liberals ready for Wayne's world?

Speculation in Liberal circles is that either Bob Rae or Ralph Goodale will serve as the interim leader as Grits begin the long and torturous process of rebuilding and staging yet another leadership campaign.

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It is not expected there will be a leadership convention until sometime next year. So the choice of interim leader is an important one.

Another potential candidate has emerged and it's a surprising one - Wayne Easter. Some Grits are circulating a document headlined "Ten Reasons" that lists why the Prince Edward Islander would be a good candidate.

The memo asks respondents who agree with the reasons to please "float his name." One problem, however: Mr. Easter does not speak French (and nor does Mr. Goodale).

Still, those pushing for Mr. Easter say he could have a strong deputy, such as Montreal's Denis Coderre.

"The Maritimes is the strongest region for the Libs," the memo says. That's true although the party lost three seats in the Martimes - or five in the entire Atlantic region, including Newfoundland and Labrador.

"He is not boring," the memo says. True; Mr. Easter is a feisty debater in the Commons who is known to yell a lot. But he is progressive, has cabinet experience and comes from a rural background.

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Caucus is to decide on an interim leader next week - and Mr. Easter's name is now in the mix.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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