It was 2004’s closest electoral race. Liberal incumbent Liza Frulla contending against Bloc Quebecois candidate Thierry St-Cyr for the Jeanne Le Ber riding. She, a 56-year-old cabinet minister. He, an unknown computer engineer and manager at Motorola. She, a media darling who, before entering politics, made a name for herself in journalism, radio, advertising and even television with her own Radio-Canada TV show, Liza. He, an unlikely opponent, and at 28, one that’s half her age.
She won, yet by such a slim margin, 0.15 per cent, or 72 ballots, and Elections Canada ordered a recount to be certain.
This January, Frulla faced the same rival and considerably more media attention amidst her party struggling to remain in power and the publication of a shocker book, Les Secrets d’Option Canada, which claimed her involvement in the sponsorship scandal. It was a nail biter, but in the end, the underdog won. With over 3,000 votes, St-Cyr pried the riding from his rival’s hands and marked the first ever Bloc victory for Jeanne Le Ber. On the sidelines, he also emerged as somewhat of a hero for the riding’s blue collar population.
“Did she receive money personally? I don’t think so,” St-Cyr told the Concordian last week.
“We asked questions during the campaign, and we didn’t get any answers. It’s her choice not to answer, but in a democracy, it’s legitimate that we ask those questions.”
Throughout the election, Frulla maintained that the Bloc had a “very dirty” campaign. St-Cyr viewed this allegation as an “easy shot.”
“Criticizing the politics of the Liberals is not a dirty campaign, it’s called democracy.”
St-Cyr also brushed off Frulla’s charges that he is “inexperienced” for the job. According to St-Cyr, his younger age is an advantage because it brings new ideas and a new way of thinking to parliament.
“We need people that represent us,” St-Cyr said. “In the population, there is young people, there’s women, there’s men, there’s engineers, there’s lawyers. It’s normal that in the House of Commons, there is this diversity.”
St-Cyr stated that instead of insulting other parties, Frulla might have been better off “putting her ideas up front.” Still, he stressed, the responsibility is to the voter first.
“If a politician comes a couple of weeks before the elections, makes you big promises and says everything will be solved, you should not trust him” St-Cyr said.
The sponsorship scandal furor helped, St-Cyr admitted, but added that what really did Frulla in was her dissatisfactory service to the riding. He said her vote against the anti-scab law, a law that protects workers for example, did not sit well with the largely working class population of the riding.
“How come our MP did not talk in our name in Ottawa?” asked the newly elected MP and resident of the riding. “That’s not what we want.”
What the riding wants, St-Cyr affirmed, is an MP that “works for the people and not the party’s interest.”
St-Cyr said the first problem that needs attention is affordable housing. Real estate development, such as the building of high-end condominiums, drive up rent prices in the area. The problem is to integrate the newcomers while ensuring traditional residents can still afford the rent. The MP proposed that the solution entails investing more money in social housing.
Another important change St-Cyr would like to see is asking voters for identification at the polling station.
“Anyone can come at the poll and say I’m Mr. X and I live there and they can go vote, this is unacceptable from my point of view.”
Another improvement, according to St-Cyr, would be a fairer repartition of the polling stations.
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