Canada's unexpected parliamentarians

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Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: Our other neighbor, Canada, held parliamentary elections earlier this week and one result sticks out -- the unexpected election of the McGill Five. That's the name given to the five McGill University students in Montreal who ran for seats in parliament. They were candidates for the New Democratic Party; and the New Democratic Party usually is a minor player on Canada's political scene. The five students were not expected to get elected, but they did! And they're now headed to Ottawa. The oldest is thirty-nine year old Jamie Nicholls. He's working on his PhD at McGill. Now he's gonna have to juggle that with his parliamentary duties in Ottawa. Congratulations Jamie and I hope you don't have a lot of homework because now you got a new job to go along with it.

Jamie Nicholls: Well, actually, the timing of the election was perfect, because I was finishing all my classes about mid-way through the first week of the campaign. I had handed off all my assignments; everything worked out to my advantage.

Mullins: I just can't help but think that maybe some of your supervisors there are thinking, "We just didn't give him enough homework if he has time to run for parliament".

Nicholls: [laughs]. Well, actually, no. I asked prior to running. I asked my research supervisor if he was receptive to me running, because I didn't want to do it if it was going to be something that was disrespectful to the faculty and to my supervisor.

Mullins: Do you have any political experience at all?

Nicholls: Yes, I do. As a researcher in British Colombia, I worked with a multi-disciplinary research unit that worked with different levels of government, and we were trying to promote the quality of life for young children, 0 to 5.

Mullins: Did you campaign with the other McGill Fives, then the other four? Were you guys operating as a Bloc?

Nicholls: Ah, no, we weren't. I was campaigning on my own out in Vaudreuil-Soulanges which is west of Montreal. It's a large agricultural, semi-rural riding, and it's where I grew up. So, I was aware that there were other students from McGill that were running, but I wasn't in close contact with them.

Mullins: Did you have to hit up a lot of your fellow students for say campaign funding for...?

Nicholls: Not at all, not at all.

Mullins: Really?

Nicholls: I had a very low budget campaign. Basically, in the last week of my campaigning, I did it on bicycle. So, that...

Mullins: That is low budget.

Nicholls: [laughs]. It was a way of delivering a message about developing alternative transit strategies and improving our cities for active transit, and the benefit of that was it was low budget. So, I found every method that I could to do high profile but low budget things [inaudible].

Mullins: Give us another example. I mean things you do, kind of, on a student budget. You're an older student, but still it sounds like a certain...

Nicholls: Right. And the party in Canada, it's not really like American campaigns where you need a lot of money to run for office. Anybody has the opportunity to become a Member of Parliament if they campaign well, if they are intelligent and if they connect with the electorate; money isn't so much a factor.

Mullins: The political inexperience that you have, in a weird way, do you think it worked for you that that's one of the reasons that...?

Nicholls: The fact that I haven't had a political career or held office?

Mullins: Yeah, exactly. Because it was those who've been in office for quite a while...

Nicholls: I think that resonated with voters. They were tired of the old parties and it's perceived that Ottawa has been turning in circles for quite some time. And so, injecting some imagination, youths and energy into parliament, I think that that resonates with voters and they want to see change happen. Yeah, I definitely think that was a factor.

Mullins: Jamie Nicholls, good luck to you.

Nicholls: Thank you.

Mullins: And by the way, Jamie Nicholls says he's not getting extra credit for his win.