Much was made — in 2011 — about the ‘McGill 5.’
This was the group a group of five McGill University students — Charmaine Borg, Laurin Liu, Matthew Dubé, Myléne Freeman, and Jaimie Nichols — who got swept-up by the NDP’s Orange Crush in Quebec and unexpectedly got elected in the 2011 federal election.
Those five were joined by a number of other NDP millennials including Pierre-Luc Dusseault, the youngest member of parliament in Canadian history, and Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the assistant pub manager who spent some of the election campaign in Las Vegas.
At the time, political pundits warned that these ‘naïve’ youngsters — these paper candidates if you will — would be prone to embarrassing gaffes and blunders that would ultimately hurt the party and their future prospects.
We hadn’t seen much of that all.
Until this week.
As part of her fundraising pitch, she promised to say the name of anyone who donated $50 in the House of Commons.
For anyone who contributed $1,000, Borg promised say “Resistance is Futile” in Parliament, apparently a reference to a Star Trek phrase.
After being called-out on social media for seemingly selling a Parliamentary benefit, Borg removed those perks and apologized.
“So regarding my crowdfunding campaign I apologize for anyone who got offended with the perks,” she wrote on Twitter.
"I didn’t see it that way and am changing it."
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While the incident highlights a perhaps rookie mistake, it also accentuates the fact that the NDP youngsters have been solid MPs who, for the most part, have managed to keep their names out of negative news stories.
Borg is the party’s digital issues critic who has taken on the likes of parliamentary heavy-weight James Moore; Liu is Deputy Critic for Science and Technology and recently introduced the Intern Protection Act, a private members bill which provides basic protections (ie: the right to refuse dangerous work, limits on excessive hours, and protection from sexual harassment) to all interns in federally regulated industries; Brosseau is the party’s vice caucus chair while Dusseault has chaired two parliamentary committees.
Dubé, the NDP’s youth caucus chair, says that their collective success emanates from deliberate efforts by the party brass to acclimatize them right after the May 2011 election.
"We all got paired with a mentor MP, an MP who had been here for a term or more," Dubé, now 26 years old, told Yahoo Canada News.
"Folks who became sort of like parental figures, people that we could feel comfortable asking questions to. People who actually who up to this day — despite the fact that we’ve now got three years under our belt — are people we turn to.”
Dubé says that, for him, the most difficult part of the new job was learning how to run a constituency office and managing staff who were all older and more experienced than him.
He notes, however, that in light of the early criticism the McGill 5 faced, the group conscientiously decided to put their noses to the grindstone.
"At the end of the day you know we can analyze how the job interview went and get obsessed over that — in this case the job interview was the campaign,” he said.
"Or we can decide, now that we’ve been hired how we’re going to perform on the job. And I think that was the approach that a lot, if not all of us took."
Dubé says that he’s planning to run again in 2015 as are many of his millennial brethren. Ultimately, the voters in their respective constituencies will decide if they were, or are, too young and inexperienced to be MPs.
But collectively they deserve credit for being good MPs and almost gaffe-free — proving the pundits wrong.
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