With the NDP surging in the polls and the (un)timely return of Gilles Duceppe to Federal Politics, I reached out to Hélène Laverdière, the New Democratic Member of Parliament for Laurier-Sainte Marie, who of course, defeated Duceppe in the last federal election. One of the few wily veterans on the otherwise very young NDP team, Laverdière thankfully held nothing back in terms of jokes, sports analogies, and Star Wars references. In an interview ranging in topics from Trudeau’s hair to Vladimir Putin, the Official Opposition Critic for International Development and Deputy Critic for Foreign Affairs lived up to her title by being wonderfully critical of all of her party’s opponents. In true socialist fashion, she evenly distributed hilarious jabs at the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the Bloc Quebecois.
We began our conversation with a bit of an ice breaker question. Mrs. Laverdière threw out a jaw-breaking haymaker for an answer:
Q: In the United States, the two parties have cool animal mascots: a Donkey for the Democrats and an Elephant for the Republicans. If you could assign animals to each of the parties in Canada which would you choose?
HL: NDP: A bear. It looks cuddly, but will do anything to fight for middle-class families. Okay, for his family, but still. Liberal: A chameleon: you never know what colour it is. Conservative: A hermit crab. Or a pet rock. Bloc Québécois: An Ostrich. It has its head in the sand and flaps its wings but cannot fly.
Q: How do you feel about Justin Trudeau’s hair having replaced Jack Layton’s moustache as the greatest bit of hair in the country? (Alternatively, who do you think would win in a fight Justin Trudeau’s hair or Thomas Mulcair’s beard?)
HL: Jack’s moustache was a smile over his smile. Justin’s hair is (in) over his head. Only a real leader like Tom Mulcair can have the perseverance to grow such a magnificent beard.
Q: In the United States, the contentious, Orwellian, privacy intruding piece of legislation was called the Patriot Act, which, to be fair, is actually an acronym. Do you think it hurt those waging the battle against C-51 that our bill has a name more bland than a Star Wars Robot?
HL: Canadians don’t seem to have minded; they managed to figure out that this legislation doesn’t make any sense and is dangerous–and they rallied together to protest it faster than R2D2 fixed the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive in the Empire Strikes Back.
Q: Gilles Duceppe has announced his return to politics. What do you think his chances are of winning his old seat back, or will you mercilessly crush the dreams of countless sovereigntists and vanquish their leader once again?
HL: No one wants to star in Back to the Future IV. I’m busy working to replace Stephen Harper, while Mr. Duceppe just wants to replace the NDP.
Q: Would you prefer to face Mr. Duceppe in an election or a winner-takes-the-seat dance off?
HL: In an election. Having seen his return, I know he’s rusty there, while I have no guarantees regarding his waltz.
Q: Who do you think is the true face of the separatist movement in Quebec: Pierre Karl Péladeau or Mr. Duceppe?
HL: I don’t know if either would be the correct answer. Neither knows how to connect with Quebecers.
Q: How do you think another Stephen Harper majority would affect the separatist movement in Quebec?
HL: How do you think another Harper majority would affect everybody?
Q: Switching over to trees and plants and furry animals and stuff, do you feel a nationwide carbon tax or a nationwide cap and trade system is the better way to cripple Canadian industry?
HL: We’ve been clear that a price on carbon is the way to go. Too bad we can’t find a way to cap and trade Conservative hot air.
Q: A while back, Vladimir Putin scored 8 goals in an exhibition hockey game in Russia. Even if it was staged, that’s impressive. Which of the current federal leaders do you think is best suited to lead a Canada in an all politician summit series against a Putin lead team?
HL: Tom and the NDP team would win for sure. Have you seen him in Question Period? Just imagine his slapshot! Our MPs are known to score big goals for the team on and off the ice. The Liberals would skate in every direction, each playing his own game, and the Conservatives would only play in their own zone.
Q: Young politicians nowadays are constantly being criticized for materials found on their social media pages. What kind fun of stuff would have been on your Facebook profile if social media had been around in your teens and 20s?
HL: Probably a lot of photos of me and my husband at the pub! When I was working on my PhD in England I fell in love with the British pub. I’ve always said that if I ever write another PhD it will be on “forms of social interaction in the British pub.” I just need somebody to finance my fieldwork…
Q: The Conservative party isn’t happy with the old leaders’ debate format. If you could ask the opening question to Stephen Harper in a debate what would it be?
HL: The Conservatives are not happy with ANY kind of debate. I would ask: Mr. Harper, if you had the opportunity to use a time machine, would you go back in time and get rid of the Senate?
Q: The Liberal Party has proposed a new tax bracket on the top 1% of Canadian earners, yet the supposedly more left wing NDP has not. When did the New Democrats stop hating rich people?
HL: 1932. (But we still think everyone should pay their fair share!)
Q: The Supreme Court of Canada overturned Section 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act making medicinal marijuana legal in all forms. What do you think this defeat means for the Conservative Government, and what is your preferred way of ingesting marijuana (medicinal of course)?
HL: One thing is clear, Mr. Harper should stop studying George Bush’s war on drugs manual.
Q: Bill C-24 is immensely confusing, as noted by the Canadian Bar Association. As I understand it, a non-Canadian born Canadian citizen must reside in Canada for the majority of every 6 year span. How will this affect Canadian athletes who travel year round or play for an American Franchise? Is Stephen Harper trying to ruin Canadian sports?
HL: For a guy supposedly writing a book on hockey, he sure missed a thing or two. But we already knew that….
A big thank you to Mrs. Laverdière for taking the time to talk funny with the True North Times. Hopefully we can all be guinea pigs in her PhD on turning up in English pubs. Somebody tell Elizabeth May that this is how you make political jokes as a female MP.