Young faces take centre stage in Gouin by-election campaign
The race to replace Francoise David as the MNA for Gouin features some fresh faces as Quebec’s political parties seek to inject new blood into the National Assembly.
Four candidates from the Quebec Liberal Paryt, Quebec Solidaire, Coalition Avenir Quebec and Green Party are seeking to win the May 29 by-election. All four are under 40-years-old, with Coalition Avenir Quebec candidate Benjamin Belair the only one over 30.
Liberal candidate Jonathan Marleau, who heads up the party’s youth wing, said Quebec’s politics needs young MNAs to inject new ideas.
“I want to run because our generation needs to take our place in political parties,” he said. “Political parties have existed for a long time, and if we don’t take our place in them, people will make decisions for us.”
On Sunday, the CAQ announced its candidate would be Belair, a philosophy professor at Montmorency College who has been a member of the party since its formation in 2011 and is the party’s political commission secretary.
“I want to speak to the families of Gouin and to give them the opportunity to discover what the Coalition Avenir Quebec really is,” said Belair. “It’s a party about families; we are there to help families.”
While David was elected to represent the riding in 2012, Gouin had previously been a stronghold for the PQ since the 1970s. In a bid not to split the sovereigntist vote, the PQ has elected not to run a candidate to compete against the well-known Nadeau-Dubois. Belair said he’s still confident that once residents of Gouin hear his message, they will be swayed to vote CAQ.
“An election is not a popularity contest, it’s about issues,” he said. “The families in Gouin have real problems and we are here to help them.”
While Quebec Solidaire will benefit from being the only party that embraces an independent Quebec, the field has gotten crowded amongst those hoping to attract the federalist vote.
Since November, the CAQ has taken moderate steps towards federalism, a position that has traditionally been a tent pole of the Liberal platform. The by-election will be the first electoral test for the Green Party since it formally adopted federalism as a party policy in December and party leader Alex Tyrrell, who is also the candidate in Gouin, said he's hoping to attract progressive federalists who otherwise might have voted for QS.
“We’re really looking forward to explaining this message to electors that you can be a federalist party but also be progressive at the same time,” said Tyrrell. “We’re eco-socialists, we support the environment, but also a good public healthcare system and access to education. So it’s really a new option that people have to choose from.”
Nadeau-Dubois was in Quebec City on Sunday, participating in a debate in the race to become the party’s new male spokesperson. Marleau said his rival’s likely ascension to become the face of QS is actually an advantage for the Liberals in the riding as Nadeau-Dubois will have to represent the party province-wide, rather than just the interests of Gouin.
“People are voting for the person and not much for the party,” he said. “Someone told me when they were voting for David, they weren’t voting for the new government, they were voting for her because she inspired them. That’s the type of MNA I want to be, someone who inspires people and brings them together so we can build something better.”