MONTREAL — New Democratic Party rookie member of Parliament Isabelle Morin covered a lot of ground in her first remarks to a Jewish community audience – from the need for more bike paths to her party’s support for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, recognized by the United Nations.
At a Dec. 11 Shaare Zedek Congregation breakfast, Morin, 26, despite her political inexperience and lack of complete fluency in English, seemed intent on furthering the legacy of late NDP leader Jack Layton and making a real difference as MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine.
“I’m here to say we can be involved and change things,” Morin said.
She also praised the Jewish community for its historic interest in “social justice,” just as the party she represents is. “It’s always been very important to you.”
Morin was one of 59 neophyte NDP Quebec MPs elected to the House of Commons in May in a rejection of Bloc Québécois and Liberal party incumbents. Against all expectations, NDP candidates took almost 80 per cent of Quebec’s 75 seats.
Morin, a native of Quebec City, defeated 14-year Liberal MP Marlene Jennings – who had previously been elected six times in what was previously one of the safest Liberal seats in the province – by about 3,500 votes.
“I did not expect to do that,” Morin said.
But it may be why Morin, a LaSalle high school teacher who lives in Lachine, clearly wanted to reassure synagogue listeners that she would be no flash in the pan politician.
She described herself as a committed environmentalist, but also concerned with other issues, among them improving public transit, reaching out to seniors and the disadvantaged, improving social housing, helping immigrants and youth, and furthering the “progressive” policies of the NDP.
Morin, now in charge of the NDP’s platform on youth, has been critical of the Conservative government’s Bill C-10, omnibus legislation she feels will only send more young people to jail instead of improving their lives with jobs.
Such Conservative policies, Morin said, made her feel less inclined to show off the Canadian flag that usually adorned her knapsack when she cycled in Europe two years ago (she is an avid cyclist).
During that trip, Morin, once vice-president of the student federation at the Université de Sherbrooke, decided to become more politically engaged once she got home.
“I felt I wanted to do something to help us become a good and healthy society.”
During a question and answer session, Morin criticized the Conservatives’ abolition of the long-gun registry and Canada’s abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol. She also said Canada needs to have policies that make the immigration process more equitable and less based on “points.”
She also said it’s unfair that immigrant students have to pay three times as much tuition fees as others.
Morin was critical of “big business” that makes “billions and billions” of dollars in profits but fails to pay a fair amount of taxes.
It is high time, she said, to end the “politics of corruption” so prevalent in Ottawa during the “sponsorship scandal” five years ago, and even now when MPs have been accused of spending from the public purse to pay for personal airplane rides.
Morin said she became active in social issues when she was in university, and then politically, “not for the salary or for power, but because I felt I could do something.”
With so many young NDP MPs now in the House of Commons, Morin said with a laugh, “it’s the first time the average age is under 60.”