NDP brothers in Quebec hoping for a sibling sweep
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, September 27, 2015 10:13AM EDT
CHATEAUGUAY, Que. -- Quebec has plenty of clans whose family name resonates in political circles -- Johnson, Paradis and David chief among them.
Brothers running near Montreal are hoping to add "Chicoine" to that list come Oct. 19.
Sylvain and Pierre Chicoine, NDP candidates in neighbouring ridings in southwestern Quebec, hope to become the first set of brothers since 1988 to serve together in the House of Commons.
"I don't know if we'll ever get to the same level as the Johnson brothers or the David sisters," says Sylvain Chicoine, 45, the incumbent from Chateauguay-Lacolle.
He was one of the NDP's accidental MPs in 2011, winning with a mostly one-man campaign and ending up as deputy veterans affairs critic when this campaign's writ was dropped.
This time, there's a campaign office buzzing with activity as volunteers mill about. He shares the space with older brother Pierre, 53, who is the candidate in the neighbouring riding of La Prairie.
The area was solidly Bloc Quebecois territory prior to 2011, so completing the sibling sweep won't be easy.
In fact, there have already been battle scars.
A nervous Pierre Chicoine had a difficult go during a debate on a regional television show with the political novice stumbling through answers.
The gaffes made him a bit of a YouTube sensation in Quebec for all the wrong reasons last weekend. The entrepreneur took his lumps and did interviews to explain himself after the debacle.
Pierre readily admits it'll be a steep learning curve.
"I'm a bit more reserved than Sylvain, it takes me out of my comfort zone, so it's a help having my brother," he told The Canadian Press in an interview.
Once Pierre won his nomination last April, Sylvain Chicoine said he wondered about the brother act.
A Parliament database suggests it's fairly rare.
The last brothers to serve together were also New Democrats -- Bob and Ray Skelly of B.C. between 1988 and 1993. The last brothers from Quebec to serve at the same time were Joseph and Edmund Asselin in the early 1960s.
Parties have until Sept. 30 to finalize candidates, but no others are running siblings.
Being brothers has its pitfalls, as confusion reigned for a while because of a redistributed electoral map and two similar-looking guys named Chicoine in neighbouring ridings.
"We got many calls, they thought there was a mistake on the posters," said Sylvain, adding that people have figured it out.
There's no long-standing political pedigree to this clan, save a great-uncle who served as the mayor of a small Quebec village. So the brothers say they'll have to write their own political history.
If the Chicoines emerge victorious, they would join current provincial political sisters Francoise David and her younger sister, Helene. They come from different political families -- Francoise is a leftist, sovereigntist member of the national assembly for Quebec solidaire, while Helene is a federalist Liberal cabinet minister.
Quebec's current agriculture minister, Pierre Paradis, served in the provincial legislature at the same time as his brother Denis sat in the Commons as a Liberal MP.
Then there were the Johnson brothers: Pierre Marc (Parti Quebecois) and Daniel (Liberal) sat together in the national assembly and each had stints as Quebec premier, as did their father Daniel Sr. (Union nationale).
Neither of the Chicoines is willing to get ahead of themselves.
"We'll see for a dynasty, maybe in 10 years we'll be able to say that," Sylvain Chicoine says with a laugh. "I do think winning would probably help to make us and the Chicoine name better known in the country."