Sylvie Fréchette, an Olympic medallist in synchronized swimming, will be running for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Rivière-du-Nord in this fall’s election, Radio-Canada has learned.
With the nomination of this star candidate, Andrew Scheer hopes to snatch the riding, which is currently held by Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin.
Fréchette will officially announce her leap into politics on Monday. In a French written statement sent to Radio-Canada, she explained why she wants to run under the Conservative banner.
“The Conservative Party is the party that most respects Quebec and always works to improve people’s lives, the lives of families,” she said.
“I always wanted to improve the lives of people around me,” she added, citing her role as a mother, a coach, and her work with charitable causes.
“For me, politics is a way to help more people. I am and have always been proud of my city, my province, my country.”
One Conservative source said this nomination will change the game in Rivière-du-Nord, which has strong Bloc roots.
In 2015, the Conservative candidate finished fourth.
The former Olympian will face Fortin, who was also acting head of his party.
Results in Rivière-du-Nord in the 2015 election
Bloc Québécois 32%
New Democratic Party: 30%
Liberal Party of Canada: 26%
Conservative Party of Canada 8.5%
* Source: Elections Canada
For the party, it suggests that Scheer is able to attract big names.
This is not the first time that the Conservatives have relied on the reputation of their candidates to make gains in Quebec. It’s the “Richard Martel recipe,” noted one Conservative who spoke to Radio-Canada.
In 2018, the Conservatives won the byelection in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord at the expense of the Liberals after recruiting Martel, the former hockey coach of the Chicoutimi Saguenéensas, as a candidate. He was a celebrated figure in the region.
This is the tactic that the Conservatives will try to repeat with Fréchette, who has similarly made her mark in St. Jerome, where she lives. The athlete has founded the Neptune synchronized swimming club for youth in her community.
When her Olympic career ended, Fréchette began giving lectures, became a project manager for the Canadian Olympic Committee, as well as a coach for Cirque du Soleil.
She won a gold medal in at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, where a score error from a Brazilian judge denied her that honour for 16 months until the International Olympic Committee corrected the record. She also won silver in the team event at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
Fréchette is not the only athlete to try her luck in politics. In August, former cyclist Lyne Bessette announced plans to represent the Liberal Party of Canada.