Carmen knew from an early age her daughter Michelle Mungall was suited for a career in politics. On Tuesday night her belief became reality as Mungall, born and schooled in St. Albert, was elected an NDP MLA for the constituency of Nelson-Creston in British Columbia.
“I think she had her little soap box right from the beginning,” Carmen said. “You think some children know what they want to do very early, she knew right from Grade 4 she wanted to be a politician.”
What was expected to be a tight race turned into a landslide for the Paul Kane graduate, taking 8,517 of 15,646 votes cast in the constituency, compared to just shy of 5,000 for her Liberal opponent.
“We figured it would be a tight win,” said Mungall, reached while cleaning up her Nelson campaign office. “But in the end it was a bit of a landslide. We were surprised winning such a strong majority.”
As soon as the results were announced and the cheering had subsided, Mungall picked up the phone and called her parents back in St. Albert.
“They were very supportive. My mom was disappointed she couldn’t come and work on the election, but I told her she can come for the next one.”
Born and raised in St. Albert, where her parents still live in the same Forest Lawn home where she grew up, Mungall was a competitive figure skater and talented artist, capturing the art award in her Grade 12 year at Paul Kane. Yet from a young age, it was politics that spoke to her.
“When they first introduced government to kids in school, that’s when she’d run home and tell me all about the government,” Carmen said. “She’d start talking to me about the government before she was even in the house.”
Carmen said her daughter ran in students’ union elections, but never won. In 2001 while attending university, she ran for the Alberta NDP against Liberal Len Bracko and PC Mary O’Neill, losing to O’Neill.
“That contest was really between Mary and Len,” Mungall admitted.
After university, Mungall decided to travel, eventually settling in Nelson where she won a seat on city council. In 2005 she chose not to run again, instead travelling to Africa and pursuing a master’s degree in human security and peace building.
“You’re on the edge of the world. Life is completely different,” she said of her travels. “The lessons learned are intense and numerous.”
Upon her return to Nelson, Corky Evans, the MLA for the constituency for 14 years, announced his retirement. He suggested Mungall should run in his place.
“Corky is a legend, so when a political legend in B.C. tells you to run for the job, you take it seriously,” Mungall said. “Politics is my passion and the region is my home.”
Buoyed by a nomination win, the strong NDP ties in the region and 14-hour days meeting voters, Mungall was able to secure victory. While many political roads eventually lead to a bid for a seat in Parliament, Mungall wouldn’t speculate.
“This is totally my passion. I feel like I’m in my element and I have the potential to do this for a long time. I don’t know where this will take me, but to serve my communities is a real honour. Where it ends up going, we’ll see.”
While Carmen couldn’t get out to help with campaign, she and Mungall’s father Robert are already juggling vacation schedules to travel to B.C. when their daughter takes the oath of office.
“To me, this is the beginning,” said Carmen. “We’re aware of the challenges that come with politics, but she’ll hold her own.”