1. Robert-Falcon Ouellette
2. Brian Bowman
3. Pat Martin
Less than two years ago, Robert-Falcon Ouellette was relatively unknown in Winnipeg outside the University of Manitoba (U of M) campus.
The former director of the Aboriginal Focus programs at the U of M ran for mayor in the 2014 civic election, placing third and bolstering his popularity in the community.
Since then, he’s gone from Favourite Local Activist (as voted by Uniter readers in 2014) to eking out an upset victory and being elected Member of Parliament in the Winnipeg Centre riding in October 2015.
Ouellette admits he was nervous getting into politics.
“I think I was more nervous about (was) I going to be wasting my time? Was I just doing this as an academic exercise? Or was this going to be something that I could be somewhat successful at? And I was really surprised,” he says.
“My belief when I first started out was people would tell you, ‘oh yeah, everything’s decided beforehand…’ What I’ve discovered is in fact politics is wide open and it’s very fluid.”
The rookie MP was sworn in Nov. 16, an emotional day for him, he says, as it coincided with the 130th anniversary of the execution of Louis Riel.
“To think Louis Riel, who was elected three times to Parliament, but was never able to sit in the Parliament building, has one person – a descendant from one of the families he was working with – now sitting in the House of Commons, is pretty amazing,” Ouellette says.
His primary goals for Winnipeg Centre are reducing child poverty and ensuring Child and Family Services “gets the proper level of care and commitment from the federal government,” he says. But he also has a policy change for the House of Commons on his agenda.
Ouellette wants to do a smudging ceremony in the House, which he was told wasn’t allowed during his swearing-in ceremony by the Sergeant-at-Arms. He says he wants to rid the institution of negative spirits “so that we start off in a good way and we don’t maintain the negative energy from the past.”