Passion, public service or plush gig — call it what you will, the job of a member of Parliament is one of the most exclusive in Canada and a key role in this country’s democratic system.
There have been thousands of MPs in Canada’s history (just over 4,500, according to the Library of Parliament) and many spend their term (or two, if they’re lucky) in Ottawa uneventfully, carrying out their regular duties. Eventually, most will lose their seats rather than choose their time of departure.
Then some of them will try to win them back — like at least 27 former MPs running once more this election in an attempt to get back to the House of Commons.
“Yes, I’m coming back. I’m coming back because of the passion,” said Alupa Clarke, Conservative candidate in Beauport–Limoilou.
“In my case, it’s not a question of circumstances. It’s not a question of issues in itself, although, yes, issues drive me … Nothing else interests me in my life except politics — and, of course, my wife and my kids,” he said.
Clarke’s situation is abnormal when it comes to the overall category of the comeback MP, of which there are at least a handful each election.
I was born to be an MP– Alupa Clarke, Conservative candidate in Beauport–Limoilou
He spent barely any time outside the political arena, first helping Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole build his leadership campaign in Quebec in 2020 — a key factor in O’Toole’s eventual win — and then serving as an adviser.
But while Clarke is committed to the Conservative cause, his run is also deeply personal, he said. There was never much doubt he’d attempt a return, he said, because he has always thought this was the best way to serve the public.
“I was born to be an MP. And I don’t say that to be arrogant, I don’t say that to be overboard. I’m just telling you the truth,” he said.
There are just a couple of other Conservative MPs trying their luck again this go-round. Most are former NDP or Liberal members.
Travel just part of the job: Boissonnault
The comeback candidates are from all across the country, including Randy Boissonnault, running again for the Liberals in Edmonton Centre, the riding he held from 2015 to 2019.
Boissonault framed his choice to run again as “a source of a lot of reflection,” but it came down to the need for different representation for Alberta in Parliament.
The Conservatives control all but one riding in the province, and the Liberals have no seats in either Alberta or Saskatchewan.
“Alberta’s a lot more diverse than the political portrayal. … We’re diverse, we’re multicultural, we’re progressive, and my job is to be the pragmatic progressive voice for Edmonton.”
MPs often work long weeks and travel frequently to and from their ridings. For those in Western Canada, that can mean hours on flights. Not a problem for Boissonault, he said.
“If you’re a western MP and you’re worried about travelling to Ottawa, you should look for another gig,” he said.
Nor did knowledge of the long hours or travel burdens dissuade Tracey Ramsey, running again for the NDP in the Ontario riding of Essex, which she held from 2015 to 2019.
“Well, there’s no doubt that it is challenging and it is a sacrifice that your family makes as well along with you,” she said. But she noted the job she turned to after 2019, working as a labour organizer, is not so different in terms of hours and travel.
Ramsey also characterized her decision to run again in terms of the Conservative incumbent. She said her time back as an organizer led her “back to the fact that we need people elected that are representative of our future. And I do not feel that the current member is doing that.”
“I miss being that voice for people, you know, someone who comes from a working class, who’s a mother, who lives in a rural community,” she said.
Ramsey said that it had been difficult to think about running again in the midst of a pandemic — the country’s focus should be elsewhere, she said — but now that it was underway: “We’re ready.”
In recent years, the level of vitriol politicians face appears to have increased, with some public figures subject to intense and persistent attacks. And ongoing protests following the Liberal campaign this election show a high level of anger in some portion of the population.
Ramsey said it’s important for people with working class backgrounds to run for politics to counter the wave of anger. She said she was heartened by a wave of new politicians who were dedicated to a better way of doing politics.
“For me, it’s about showing people that politics can be done in a way that isn’t negative, that isn’t something that people disengage from,” se said.
“And that’s another reason why I’m running. I don’t feel that I was finished doing the work that I started.”
Other former MPs running again
John Aldag (Cloverdale–Langley City)
Ramez Ayoub (Thérèse-De Blainville)
Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre)
Mike Bossio (Hastings–Lennox and Addington)
Pierre Breton (Shefford)
Doug Eyolfson (Charleswood–St. James–Assiniboia–Headingley)
Gordie Hogg (South Surrey–White Rock)
Francois Lapointe (Montmagny–L’Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup)
Linda Lapointe (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles)
Jean Rioux (Saint-Jean)
Alupa Clarke (Beauport–Limoilou)
Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre)
John Weston (West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country)
Malcolm Allen (Hamilton Mountain) (Different seat)
Paulina Ayala (Honoré-Mercier)
Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier–Maskinongé)
François Choquette (Drummond)
Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor–Tecumseh)
Ève Péclet (Outremont) (Different seat)
Tracey Ramsey (Essex)
Brigitte Sancoucy (Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot)
Djaouida Sellah (Montarville)
Wayne Stetski (Kootenay–Columbia)
Maxime Bernier – PPC (Beauce)
Denis Blanchette – Greens (former NDP MP – Louis-Hébert)
Corneliu Chisu – PPC (Pickering–Uxbridge) (former CPC MP)
Jean Landry – PPC (Trois-Rivieres) (former BQ MP – Lotbinière)