Former face of student movement to run for PQ
Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012 11:06AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 25, 2012 7:08PM EDT
One of the most prominent figures of the Quebec student movement is now running for a seat in the national assembly as a Parti Quebecois candidate.
Leo Bureau-Blouin, the 20-year-old former leader of the CEGEP student federation, formally announced his jump to politics at a news conference Wednesday, flanked by PQ Leader Pauline Marois.
Bureau-Blouin, who for months led the protests against tuition hikes and regularly appeared on TV and in newspapers defending the strikes and demonstrations that paralyzed Montreal, said the decision to run for PQ was not an easy one, but he’s worried “about the consequences of the Liberals being re-elected.”
He was immediately questioned about the absence of the felt red square on his jacket -- a symbol of the student uprising he had worn in all other public appearances.
"I think everyone knows my position on tuition fees,” Bureau-Blouin said. “I think that with or without a red square, we can make Quebec one of the nations where education is the most affordable in the world.”
Many political observers interpreted it as an attempt by Bureau-Blouin and the PQ not to alienate voters who support Premier Jean Charest’s decision to increase tuition fees.
PQ party members stopped wearing the red squares in June, when Marois said she would be replacing hers with the fleur-de-lis for Quebec’s Fete nationale.
Bureau-Blouin said his objective is “to represent all of the voters in the riding” of Laval-des-Rapides, a Liberal stronghold north of Montreal.
The provincial election is expected to be called next week and held on Sept. 4.
Bureau-Blouin’s charisma, youth and intelligence could make him the star PQ candidate, some observers say.
But critics were quick to point out that his youth can also be a disadvantage -- some people in the suburban riding told CTV Montreal he seems too inexperienced to represent them.
If elected, Bureau-Blouin would become the youngest-ever member of the national assembly.
“I know that my candidacy is not typical,” he said. “But I sincerely feel it can have a positive impact on the involvement of youth in politics.”
Marois said Bureau-Blouin's actions during the student crisis show that he can handle himself in tough situations, despite his youth.
"You've seen Mr. Blouin during the last student conflict and he has always shown a good attitude; he's wise and he's intelligent and I think he'll be an important member of our team during this election," she said.
If elected, Bureau-Blouin said he plans to study law part-time while serving as an MNA.
His announcement was also met with criticism from within the student movement Wednesday.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, an equally recognizable face as the spokesperson for the more radical student group CLASSE, told CTV News Channel that his organization will stay out of party politics throughout the election campaign.
“We have very, very strict principles on independence toward all the political parties. That’s why we will never, never support one party or another,” Bureau-Blouin said, adding that he will not run for a seat as long as he’s a CLASSE spokesman, even if a political party approaches him.
“My place is with my fellow students in the classes and on the streets,” he said.
With a report from CTV Montreal and files from The Canadian Press