Newly-elected Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos (centre) was escorted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-Heritage Minister Melanie Joly (left) into the House of Commons on May 3, 2017 (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)


Millennial MPs on their path to Parliament

When the House of Commons resumed business last week, a record number of the MPs who took part were women. Two of Canada’s youngest female MPs are McGill grads - Raquel Dancho, BA’14, and Emmanuella Lambropoulos, BEd’13.

Story by Madi Haslam

December 2019

The results of the 2019 federal election were groundbreaking in at least one respect: 98 women were elected to the House of Commons, the most in Canadian parliamentary history. Among the youngest of the female MPs recently elected were two McGill alumnae—Raquel Dancho, BA’14, and Emmanuella Lambropoulos, BEd’13.

Dancho is a brand new MP. Lambropoulos has a little more experience in the role – she was first elected in a by-election on April 3, 2017.

As a teacher at Montreal’s Rosemount High School, Lambropoulos led classes on history, geography and ethics. But she often found herself speaking to her students about politics—emphasizing the importance of studying up on party platforms and getting involved. Lambropoulos had always considered entering politics herself, though she assumed that leap would come later on, after a longer career in the classroom.

Then Stéphane Dion retired in 2017, opening up the federal Liberal nomination in her home riding of Saint-Laurent. The opportunity seemed too good to pass up, if only to test the political waters. “I saw it as something that I probably wouldn’t win,” says Lambropoulos. “But I wanted to go through the motions and gain experience because I knew this was something I had as a goal later on in life.”

She threw her name into the race, approaching family, friends and colleagues for their support. After full days of teaching, she spent her evenings knocking on doors in her riding until dark. Eventually, the unexpected happened: she won, beating out a former provincial cabinet minister and a future member of the National Assembly of Quebec.

Lambropoulos, then 26 years old, was elected to Parliament in a by-election one month later. It all felt surreal, but she was ready to get to work. The Liberals were already halfway through their first mandate and the learning curve in Ottawa was steep. “I was gaining the confidence to speak up when everyone else around me had two years experience and I was the newbie,” she says. “It was a challenge, but I think I accepted it gracefully.”

The MP became more vocal with time, sounding off on issues impacting her constituents and—as the youngest member of her caucus—ones affecting millennials. She sat on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and as a representative for anglophone rights in Quebec on the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

In the little time off she had between her commitments in Ottawa and Montreal, she worked towards completing a master’s degree in education she had started at McGill. Lambropoulos was re-elected handily in the October 21 vote.

Raquel Dancho, the new MP for the Winnipeg riding of Kildonan – St. Paul, was also among the winners on election night. Dancho first set her sights on politics at the age of nine while sitting at the kitchen table in Manitoba. She was listening to her family of farmers talking about how a new federal policy would negatively impact them. “I remember feeling the great injustice of the disconnect between my humble family and these decision makers in this far-off place,” she says. “I resolved that day I was going to go to this Ottawa place and fight for them. And that was 20 years ago.”

Eventually, Dancho moved to Montreal to study political science at McGill, becoming the first member of her family to attend university. After graduating, she returned to Manitoba to cut her teeth as a political staffer in the Manitoba government, where she worked with the Minister of Sustainable Development and the Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage.

Dancho secured the Conservative nomination for Kildonan – St. Paul in June 2018, inspired by fellow Conservative politicians like Lisa Raitt and Michelle Rempel. She campaigned relentlessly, leading up to her win on election day, when she unseated the Liberal incumbent in her riding.

Raquel Dancho

Dancho (left) got emotional the first time she sat in a chair in the House of Commons. “I was very dramatic about it. I slowly lowered myself into it and the moment,” she says. “And I really felt the weight of the responsibility and the privilege of representing almost 100,000 people as I sat there.” She’ll play an important role in Parliament right from the start. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer recently named Dancho the official Opposition critic for diversity, inclusion and youth.

Lambropoulos and Dancho may be separated by provinces and party lines, but they express similar concerns on at least one issue: they want to see federal politics become more accessible for those who want to start families while in office.

They both hope their successes encourage other young women to run at all levels of government, especially federally. “Parliament needs to be representative of the greater Canadian population,” says Dancho. “The millennial voting demographic is the largest in the country presently and yet we are very underrepresented, particularly with women.”

Their influence already seems promising. While Dancho was campaigning, a young girl stopped by her office, keen to meet her and learn about a politician’s responsibilities. She was nine years old, says Dancho—the very same age she was when she made that kitchen-table resolution two decades ago.

McGillians in the House

In all, 26 McGill graduates were elected as MPs in the 2019 federal election, in ridings in five different provinces – as far east as New Brunswick Southwest, and as far west as West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, BA’94, formed his cabinet recently, he chose five fellow McGill graduates for ministerial positions. Another McGill graduate will soon be handling a pivotal role in the Prime Minister’s Office – Marci Surkes, BCL/LLB’07, will become the new executive director of policy in January.

Members of the Liberal Party caucus

Will Amos, BCL/LLB’04 (MP for Pontiac)
Rachel Bendayan, BA’02, BCL/LLB’06 (MP for Outremont)
Jim Carr, BA’79 (MP for Winnipeg South Centre)
Julie Dabrusin, BA’94 (MP for Toronto–Danforth)
Julie Dzerowicz, BCom’94 (MP for Davenport)
Karina Gould, BA’10 (MP for Burlington)
Anthony Housefather, LLB’93, BCL’93 (MP for Mount Royal)
Angelo Iacono, BA’88 (MP for Alfred-Pellan)
Emmanuella Lambropoulos, BEd’13 (MP for Saint-Laurent)
David Lametti, LLB’89, BCL’89 (MP for LaSalle–Émard–Verdun)
Patricia Lattanzio, BA’85 (MP for Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel)
Michael Levitt, BA’93 (MP for York Centre)
Joël Lightbound, BCL/LLB’11 (MP for Louis-Hébert)
Catherine McKenna, LLB’99 (MP for Ottawa Centre)
Marc Miller, LLB’01, BCL’01 (MP for Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Soeurs)
Sherry Romanado, CertPRMgmt’05 (MP for Longueuil–Charles-LeMoyne)
Francis Scarpaleggia, BA’79 (MP for Lac-Saint-Louis)
Peter Schiefke, MSc’11 (MP for Vaudreuil–Soulanges)
Brenda Shanahan, BSW’07 (MP for Châteauguay–Lacolle)
Justin Trudeau, BA’94 (MP for Papineau)
Arif Virani, BA’94 (MP for Parkdale–High Park)
Patrick Weiler, BA’08 (MP for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country)
Jonathan Wilkinson, MA’92 (MP for North Vancouver)

Members of the Conservative Party caucus

Steven Blaney, CertMgmt’91 (MP for Bellechasse–Les Etchemins–Levis)
Raquel Dancho, BA’14 (MP for Kildonan–St. Paul)
John Williamson, BA’93 (MP for New Brunswick Southwest)

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