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Georges Laraque has a reputation as a fighter. Over the course of his 11-year NHL career, he accumulated 1,126 penalty minutes as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens. The man named “Best Fighter” by the Hockey News in 2003 is now on a different crusade, to spread the word of the Green party.
Laraque, a 34-year-old Montreal native, was named deputy leader of the Green party in July 2010. Nationally, polls put support for the Greens at three to 11 per cent, far behind the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats. In Quebec, they are polling under five per cent.
Quebecers simply don’t give the Greens a chance, according to Laraque.
“So far, people are just thinking that the Green party will never win,” he said.
Laraque said that people tell him they don’t like the other parties, but that they feel a vote for the Greens is a waste of their vote.
”That’s what people think in Montreal,” he said. “They think that we’re so far back that if they vote for us it’s not going to make a lot of difference so it’s like throwing it away. They try to vote for the party they hate the least, not the one that they like the most.”
Even though he is deputy leader, Laraque is not running for election this year. He said that although he is deeply involved with the Green party, he has other priorities, including helping with the post-earthquake reconstruction effort in Haiti.
“After the tragedy that happened in Haiti—my mom was born in Port-au-Prince and I could have died if they had stayed there—with World Vision and the NHL Player’s Association I decided to work towards building a hospital,” he said. “I’ve been there three times already and I feel that until I’m done building that hospital, I can’t run because I have to finish this project first.”
Instead, he’s taken on the role of spokesperson and campaigner for the Greens. He made appearances on Wednesday April 27th with Elizabeth May in Saanich, B.C., and previously in Edmonton.
“The fact that [May] could use me to go to different places where she can’t really go and where people would like her to go, then it makes it easier for her to stay and focus on her own riding. The party can send me all over the place. I’m young I have all this energy.”
He follows in the footsteps of other NHL alumni turned politicians such as Jacques Demers, who is Conservative senator and Ken Dryden, the Liberal incumbent in the Toronto riding of York Centre.
Laraque is trying to transform his image from an NHL tough guy to eco-friendly activist. He cites his commitment to veganism (he is an investor in Crudessence, a chain of vegan restaurants scattered across Montreal) and his green lifestyle as an ideal fit for the Green party.
“If you don’t know me, you just think I’m a big hockey player, eats meat, doesn’t care, drives those big cars, and all that,” he said. “But now people have come to know that’s not the case. I already started talking about the environment, about climate change and stuff, so it was a perfect marriage with the Green party.”
He won’t say whether he will run in an election in the future, either in his hometown of Montreal or his current home of Edmonton.
For now, Laraque said he’s happy to use his to-the-point speaking style as a way to stick up for his new, Green teammates.
“The way I talk to people is different, I don’t talk like a politician I didn’t go to politician school to talk in parables or in a language that people don’t understand,” he said. “I answer a question with an answer I say what I think.”