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“I wanted to use my voice to help people,” NDP candidate Stephanie Mercier says. Photos: Courtesy Stephanie Mercier.

Mercier is a common law student, nursing graduate and former Gee-Gees hockey and rugby player

The New Democratic Party of Canada has tapped a University of Ottawa student to run in Ottawa-Vanier in the upcoming federal election.

Stephanie Mercier, a 26-year-old common law student at the U of O and former athlete on the Gee-Gees women’s hockey and rugby teams, was the sole candidate seeking the nomination to run in the riding encompassing the university, Sandy Hill, the ByWard Market and Vanier. The NDP officially named Mercier as their candidate for the riding on July 24. 

Mercier, a Franco-Ontarian, graduated from the U of O’s nursing program in 2015 and then began to pursue a master’s in nursing science, where she focused in part on mental health nursing.

Stephanie Mercier is a former Gee-Gees women’s hockey goalie.

Mercier began working at Ottawa’s Montfort Hospital and Overdose Prevention Ottawa, where she recalls meeting people struggling with mental illness, addiction and stigma who faced barriers to accessing care. It’s where she traces the roots of her decision to enter federal politics for the upcoming election.

“I thought, ‘you know, maybe it’s time to stop watching and stop enduring and do something about it,’ ” Mercier says. “I wanted to use my voice to help people.” 

Mercier says her own self-described status as a working-class student and her experience working in overdose prevention and the health care sector helped draw her to the NDP.

“For me, the NDP … is for the working people, it’s for the (people) who struggle, it’s not for the people at the top who are doing great, it’s for the ones who need help and they’re standing up for these people.”

If elected, Mercier says affordable housing, health care and climate change action are at the top of her agenda.

Stephanie Mercier, bottom, also played on the Gee-Gees women’s rugby team.

Mercier is up against Liberal candidate Mona Fortier (the riding’s current Member of Parliament), Conservative candidate Joel Bernard, Green Party candidate Oriana Ngabirano and People’s Party of Canada candidate Paul Durst.

Historically, Ottawa-Vanier’s MP has been Liberal. Mercier admits this is a challenge, but notes NDP candidate Emilie Taman came in second place in the riding’s 2017 by-election.

“That’s why we need to make a change … and I think the community realizes that they need to take a step and we need to help them with that.”  

Mercier says she sees Canadian athlete and mental health advocate Clara Hughes as one of her biggest role models. 

“I’ve been watching her for years since I was eight,” she says. “It’s not (just) the competitions she’s won, it’s what she’s done with that power.

“She’s stepped up for people with mental (illness) when mental health was stigmatized,” Mercier continues. “The kind of leader that is successful but uses that success and that power for the well-being of a community … is something I really, really admire.” 

The federal election is set to be held on or before Oct. 21. 

Stay tuned for our interviews with each of the five candidates running in Ottawa-Vanier in the run-up to the 2019 federal election.