Ruth Ellen Brosseau's attempted comeback, after two years running a farm, is too close to call

Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who famously went from bartending to Parliament, has proven once again that she has staying power in her rural Quebec riding, though her hoped-for comeback is still too close to call.

Two years after losing her seat, locals know Brosseau better than ever, many say. She's been busy since 2019, when the NDP MP lost in Berthier-Maskinongé to the Bloc Québécois: having married a pork farmer, she's been working on their farm.

When COVID-19 hit, sending local farmers into a tailspin, she started an online farmers' market co-op system to help them sell their goods.

As of 1:45 a.m., Brosseau's race was one of the few in the country that's too close to call. She and the Bloc incumbent, Yves Perron, were 1,008 votes apart, with Brosseau in second place. She lost to Perron in 2019 by just 1,500 votes.

This race may not be decided for days: an NDP spoesperson said there were about 900 to 1,000 mail-in ballots cast in the riding. 

Brosseau's story has fascinated Canadians, but the latest chapter has taken place off the national stage, deep in her heavily agricultural riding.

She first came to Ottawa in 2011's so-called NDP "orange crush" surprise sweep of Quebec. She had volunteered to put her name on the ballot in Berthier-Maskinongé but, she said at the time, never expected to win.

In 2015, however, her win was earned: while most of Quebec's other NDP MPs lost their seats in a red wave of Liberal support, Brosseau stayed standing. 

In 2019, she lost to the Bloc Québécois. This election brought her back, though she announced her candidacy relatively late, and she later explained why: she had taken on new responsibilities, at a farm, and wasn't sure she could step away.

She held her election-night party at the charcuterie shop at this farm, her husband's, called Le rieur sanglier, which means "the laughing boar." She's been working there for the last 20 months.

When first elected in 2011, the then-single mother didn't even speak French. But putting down such deep roots in Berthier-Maskinongé has kept her very popular, and still a public figure, supporters told CTV.

Many in the riding still call her with constituent issues, they said, despite knowing that she hasn't been in office since 2019.

Her hurdle this election, they said, was similar to the last election: her party leader, with many in the riding not sure of their feelings about Jagmeet Singh.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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