TORONTO -- With little more than a week left in the campaign, the province of Quebec has become a key battleground as the three leading parties scramble to appease French voters who are being lured by the surging Bloc Quebecois.

NDP incumbent candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau understands, firsthand, how quickly a party’s fortunes can turn in an election. The former Ottawa bartender’s name was put on the ballot as a placeholder for the NDP in the Berthier—Maskinonge riding in central Quebec during the 2011 federal election, despite never having stepped foot in the area.

Brosseau was considered a “paper candidate” with no experience and little chance of winning the seat. She even took a vacation to Las Vegas in the middle of the campaign in 2011, which earned her ridicule in the press and the nickname “Vegas girl.”

Despite all of this, then NDP leader Jack Layton and his party swept the province of Quebec in what is known as the “Orange Wave” and Brosseau suddenly found herself an elected member of parliament.

Since that time, Brosseau has appeared to settle into the role, becoming the agriculture critic in the party’s shadow cabinet in 2012 and then house leader in 2018.

“I had to learn very fast, but I gave it all I had,” she told CTV News. “The criticism that I had in 2011 made me want to work harder to say ‘You know everyday people, those voices need to be in the House of Commons.’”

Brosseau’s dedication to her riding even led her to settle on a farm in the region. But as she adjusted to her position, the NDP’s popularity dwindled in Quebec. In the 2015 election, Brosseau was one of only 16 NDP candidates to win their ridings in the province.

Now, as polls suggest the once written-off Bloc Quebecois is gaining momentum and their candidate in Berthier—Maskinonge, Yves Perron, the party’s president, is shaping up to be Brosseau’s main challenger.

Despite the threat from the Bloc, Brosseau isn’t throwing in the towel for the future of her own political career or that of her party’s.

“We’re often underestimated,” she said. “Just don’t count us out.”

Regardless of the result on election night, Brosseau said she plans to stay in the riding she now calls “home.”