MONTREAL — Emmanuella Lambropoulos, the 26-year-old school teacher who easily won Monday's federal byelection for the Liberals in the riding of Saint-Laurent, can credit her victory to a "perfect storm," her supporters say.
Once Lambropoulos became her party's candidate after a nomination process riven with controversy, she became the heavy favourite in a Montreal riding that has sent Liberals to the House of Commons ever since it was created in the 1980s.
"I'm sure it will hit me a little later," Lambropoulos said after a victory speech at an Italian restaurant in the riding that served as the party's byelection headquarters.
Lambropoulos claimed about 60 per cent of the vote, a convincing win over her closest competitor, Conservative party candidate Jimmy Yu, who managed less than 20 per cent of the vote.
Her real battle, as it turns out, was at the nomination level.
Alan DeSousa, the popular mayor of the borough of Saint-Laurent, was not allowed by the party to run for the nomination, and insists he was never given a reason why.
When that happened, "the Greeks had their chance," said Justine Frangouli, a member of a local Greek feminist association, who was among the 100 supporters who showed up to celebrate the victory.
"I knew we had it."
Lambropoulos had been up against former Quebec cabinet minister Yolande James, widely expected to replace Stephane Dion, the former Liberal leader who resigned his seat to become ambassador to Germany and the European Union.
Frangouli said voters in the riding were upset that DeSousa couldn't run and didn't want to vote for James, whom they accused of being "parachuted" into the riding by the party.
"Lambropoulos lived a perfect storm," Frangouli said.
John Theodosopoulos, president of the Hellenic Congress of Quebec, said some people in the riding were upset because they felt the Liberals wanted them to vote for James.
"All those things combined for a perfect storm for (Lambropoulos)," he said. "We are proud of her Greek heritage, but we are particularly proud of her credentials."
Lambropoulos worked in the Saint-Laurent riding office of Dion, who held the seat since 1996.
"I looked up to him," she said.
Saint-Laurent is a particularly diverse riding, with over half of its population born outside Canada, 40 per cent of whom arrived in the country after the year 2000.
The riding is also home to one of the biggest industrial hubs in the province, and the second biggest in Montreal.
Major aerospace firms such as Bombardier and CAE employ thousands in the riding, as do big pharmaceutical companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline.
"She is young and pure," Frangouli said of the new Liberal MP. "Pure in politics and sophisticated in her thinking."
Lambropoulos might be new to politics, but she quickly got the MP treatment by her Liberal party handlers: after only a few minutes of questions, she was spirited away from the cameras by party employees.
Four other byelections took place on Monday; the Liberals won in Ottawa and the Markham-Thornhill riding north of Toronto, while the Conservatives cruised to victory in two votes in Calgary.