By Robert Frank
with files from Robin Della Corte and Geneviève April
How ironic that Léo Bureau-Blouin, a University of Montreal law student on leave of absence during his sojourn as Quebec’s youngest legislator, lashed out Sunday against fellow scholars. Their crime? They want to vote.
Bureau-Blouin fared better when he stayed on script. For a full month after he was elected in 2012, reporters who wanted to reach him had to pass through his Parti Québécois minders in the Premier’s office. During that month, his main media presence was a libido-laden front-page fashion feature in Clin d’oeil, which giddily revered his hunk qualities to its mainly female readership.
He telegraphed his intentions after he landed in Laval des Rapides, the following month. Out went the riding association’s Parti québécois faithful, who had long laboured to get Marc Demers, now Laval’s mayor, elected to the National Assembly. In came his own acolytes.
This time last year, with his new young staff at his side, Bureau-Blouin announced that he would spend the summer crisscrossing the province to take the pulse of Quebec youth.
So The Suburban called to ask whether he would speak to the province’s English-speaking youth. The answer was an unequivocal yes.
During the ensuing months, we kept calling to find out when and where he would do so, to no avail.
Bottom line: It never happened.
Instead, the precocious politician steered clear of Quebec’s English universities and CEGEPs. Largely eschewing the metropolis where he had made mayhem as a student protester the year before, he successfully pitched a $500 million youth white paper to the Parti québécois government.
While Bureau-Blouin has turned on non-francophone students, many of the students who formerly stood at his side have withheld their support from him. Disillusioned, the most vocal group, known as ASSE, declined to back the Parti Québécois during this election campaign.
Nor is Bureau-Blouin the only youth candidate in Laval. This time around, 26-year-old Liberal Jean Habel is running in Ste. Rose, showing a different side Quebec youth: the majority of whom have hunkered down, quietly completed their studies and now make a constructive contribution to society at work and as taxpayers.
Bureau-Blouin would surely do better to address the poverty in his riding where, as The Suburban reported last week, welfare is disproportionately the lot of non-francophones.
Likewise, if his leader Pauline Marois is genuinely concerned about representative democracy in Quebec, she can turn her attention from her obsession about a non-existent fifth-column “from Ontario and the rest of Canada” and instead work to end the egregious gerrymandering of Quebec ridings.
The Quebec electoral map has long given rural voters twice the clout of their urban counterparts. Resolving that disparity has not been a priority for the Péquistes, who draw most of their seats in the National Assembly from outside the big cities. Doing so would bolster their democratic credentials far more than whining about a handful of minority students whom they are now attempting to alienate from voting.
The Parti québécois’ star youth-candidate didn’t have the courtesy to sound them out. Instead, he now prefers to divide the youth whom he claimed to represent—but never really did.
It will be interesting to see how his message sells in Laval des Rapides on April 7.
Meantime, this newspaper wants to encourage young people throughout the province to get out and vote that day. It’s the best way to get your say about how Quebec is run.
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