Throughout university, students are encouraged to get involved in extra-curricular activities, get internships and part-time work to get ahead of the competition and gain experience in their field of interest.
But how can you compete with the five students who will write “elected as a Member of Parliament to Canada’s House of Commons” on their resumés?
In the most recent Canadian federal election, four students and one recent graduate were elected to Parliament: Charmaine Borg, Mylène Freeman, Laurin Liu, Matthew Dubé, and Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who became Canada’s youngest ever MP at 19.
They all represent the NDP party, which garnered 102 seats in this election compared to the 37 seats it won in 2008.
So, how did these students end up running as NDP candidates in the federal election?
Liu was planning to enter her third year at McGill University to continue her major in History and Cultural Studies and minor in Islamic Studies in September, but she was asked to run for the NDP by other members of the party.
She had been involved with the NDP for years and even started an NDP campus club while attending CEJEP, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, and was co-president of the NDP Quebec youth wing in 2009. She was also a member of NDP McGill, a staffer at the McGill Daily and a board member of CKUT, a non-profit campus radio station at McGill.
Although she doesn’t even have a driver’s license, she will be going to Parliament to represent her riding of Rivièredes-Mille-Îles in Ottawa. Liu says she didn’t spend time campaigning in her riding nor did she visit the riding at all. She assumed that her chances for winning were slim so she decided to devote her time campaigning for Thomus Mulcair, who was previously the only NDP MP in Quebec.
This election was the first time Dusseault could vote – and he marked the special occasion by voting for himself in the Quebec riding of Sherbrooke. He will be the youngest MP ever to sit in Canada’s House of Commons.
Dusseault finished his first year studying politics at the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec. He told CBC he “knows the game” since he was also a co-founder and president of his NDP student association and has visited Ottawa and the House of Commons.
He actively campaigned in his riding, with limited financial resources, by knocking on doors and meeting with his constituents. “All the people I met were saying we want a young MP, we want change and the NDP is the new voice of Quebec,” Dusseault told the Toronto Star.
Dubé recently completed his bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in History from McGill University. Although he admitted he was surprised he won, he told the McGill Daily, “You don’t go in thinking you’re going to lose.”
He was asked to run in the Quebec riding of Chambly-Borduas after the NDP candidate in that riding dropped out. He says he was chosen because the federal party “knew it was an area I knew well, and I had expressed interest in the past. Despite my lack of experience they knew I understood how the system worked.”
“People say we don’t have political experience,” he said. “Obviously that’s true to some extent…but we’re familiar with what we have to do, [and] we have a lot of energy and that’s important too.”
Borg is a bilingual Political Science and Latin American Studies student at McGill and co-president of NDP McGill. In 2008, she received the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award for founding a drama program for at-risk youth.
When she was elected as the MP in the Quebec riding of Terrebonne-Blainville, she was working as the Labour Relations Officer for the Association of McGill University Support Employees and planning to spend the Fall 2011 term as a foreign exchange student in Mexico.
“I think the biggest challenge right now is proving to people that a 20-year-old can do a good job and that youth actually can have power and create change,” Borg said to the The Gazette.
Freeman, the newly-elected MP in the Quebec riding of Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel who is originally from Stouffville, Ont., studied political theory at McGill and has already accumulated years of political experience.
She ran for Projet Montréal in Outremont in 2009, worked to help elect NDP Thomas Mulcair in 2008, and is also one of the coordinators of McGill’s Women in House program, which encourages women to get involved in politics and even sponsors a trip to Parliament to learn from female MPs.
She’s also fluent in both French and English.
These students may be young but what they lack in age they more than make up for in experience. All of them have a lot of political experience, from volunteering on campaigns, participating in political events on campus to attending NDP conventions and leading NDP campus clubs.
Quebec’s “orange wave” certainly helped these candidates win their ridings, but the reason their names were on the ballot is because of their experiences and interests.
These candidates have proven that:
- Campus experience can make a difference. If you have not joined a campus group you feel passionately about, do it today. These new MPs were asked to run because they had relevant experience, even if it was as the leader of a campus group. Although there’s no guarantee that you will win a federal election and begin earning a salary of over $150,000 just by joining a campus club, the experience will still be worthwhile.
- Campus groups that are part of a larger organization can be amazing opportunities for students. A friend of mine was heavily involved with the CANFAR club at McGill and after she graduated, she was hired by the parent organization.
- Networking helps! It’s been said before but when companies are presented with candidates of similar backgrounds, education levels and experience, the one who is not just a name on paper is the one who will get the job.
What do you think? Why did these candidates end up running and winning?