After her by-election rout in Montreal’s St-Laurent riding Monday evening, the young candidate of Hellenic origin, Emmanuella Lambropoulos, will be joining the ranks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in Ottawa.
The 26-year old high school teacher, largely unknown on the Canadian political scene and among the Greek community, seized the opportunity to showcase her political savvy that dates from her student years. For, then, as part of a group tasked with creating a secondary Greek student organization in Quebec under the guidance of former Greek Consul-General, Thanos Kafopoulos, Emmanuella was instrumental in organizing two major events entitled “Meet the Greek” which aimed to have the Greek students of Montreal’s four universities get to know each other and have fun.
Kneaded by the political passion of her father, Tom, Emmanuella Lambropoulos entered the Liberal Party at the tender age of 18, joining the fundraising committee of the election campaign of Stephane Dion, the long-standing Liberal member for St-Laurent and recent Minister of Foreign Affairs. Fast forward to this January when Justin Trudeau reshuffled his cabinet, offering Mr. Dion the post of Canadian Ambassador to the European Union and leaving his St-Laurent seat vacant.
Quickly, the Liberal Party announced their intention to hold a nomination procedure in which the dominant contender seemed to be the long-serving mayor of the borough, Alan DeSousa. Undaunted, Emmanuella, despite the exhortations of various members of the party that she not stand against the omnipotent Mr. De Souza, boldly submitted her candidacy.
Stunningly, two weeks prior to the nomination, the Liberals, without offering any explanation, “red lighted” Mayor DeSousa, barring him from running and attempting, instead, to impose their chosen “star” on the riding in the persona of Yolande James, a former Quebec provincial minister. The race ensued with three female candidates: the handpicked party favorite, Yolande James, a Liberal stalwart of Moroccan origin, Marwah Rizqy, and the aforementioned Emmanuella Lambropoulos.
The media, faced with the “unknown” Emmanuella, gave significant airtime to the candidacies of her opponents, ostentatiously ignoring Emmanuella’s existence while she worked feverishly signing up supporters with the help of a small group of friends and family. Only Breakfast Television’s Domenic Fazioli gave Emmanuella the opportunity to discuss her goals and ideas on air a mere few days before the nomination.
It was then that the leaders of Montreal’s Greek community, discerning the anger amongst DeSousa’s followers, seized upon the opportunity of a potential Emmanuella victory. Appearing on the weekly program of the Lyceum of Greek Women on Montreal Greek Times TV, the President of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, Mr. Nicolas Pagonis, along with the President of the Hellenic Congress of Quebec, Mr. John Theodosopoulos, pronounced their strong endorsement of Emmanuella Lambropoulos, urging the whole community to stand behind her.
To those that were following closely, it was a certainty that Emmanuella would win as her opponents considered her a lightweight, paying no heed and allowing her to go on her merry way, enrolling hundreds of members right up until the final moment. On the night of the nomination, the party insiders were literally “frozen” by the unexpected outcome.
Taken aback, the Liberal Party establishment be slow to begin the normal processes of electioneering. It would take a week to print Emmanuella’s posters and a concerted effort was mounted to undermine the work of her “Greek team” to call potential voters to the polling station on election day.
Regardless, her volunteers would not be denied, retreating to private homes, or other clandestine areas with their mobile phones, away from the prying eyes of party handlers who had isolated Ms. Lambropoulos from the moment of her nomination. The only instant in which she was allowed to roam freely was on the evening of the National Day of Greece where she attended the local celebrations at the urging of Presidents Pagonis and Theodosopoulos and was introduced to a large Greek audience, encouraging those resident in St-Laurent to go out and vote.
Eventually, after the local Greek parade, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came on board and visited Emmanuella’s electoral office, going out with her to solicit voters. For six long weeks, Emmanuella’s team had to fight against her party’s establishment and against the local media who suddenly remembered their defence of democracy in the name of Mayor DeSousa.
Tenaciously, however, the girl with the long black hair and the honey-coloured eyes, managed to emerge triumphant.On Monday she easily sailed into the House of Commons. With all 182 polls reporting, Lambropoulos won with 59 per cent of the votes.
It is time for all Liberals to celebrate the success of a pure political struggle and to learn to manage the victories of real people by putting an end to repeated attempts by its party executives to determine electoral outcomes.
As for the Hellenic Community of Montreal, after many years it is sending one of its own to Ottawa in the face of 26-year old Emmanuella Lambropoulous, proudly vindicated in the result of a political struggle of purity and solidarity.