By Robert Frank
“When I go door-to-door, people want to talk to me about the real issues: the economy, education and health care,” Jean Habel told The Suburban, “not a problem such as a referendum.”
Habel, who has lived in Laval for 25 years, is running for election as the Liberal’s candidate in Ste. Rose riding.
“Commuters need better public transit in Ste. Rose, especially a central train station,” Habel said in an interview. “We also need to preserve the unique charm of Ste. Rose Boulevard.”
He also wants to see the province provide better support to small businesses in the riding, which are the biggest creators of new jobs.
“We need to implement a tax credit that will help family members and employees to take over those businesses, most of whose owners are projected to retire within the next five-to-ten years,” he urged.
Habel is a financial expert who works for SNC-Lavalin as a stock market analyst. At 26, he already holds two accounting designations, as a professional as well as a management accountant. Before entering the workforce, he completed some of his studies as an exchange student in Denmark.
Besides his business acumen, he volunteers his time to support meals-on-wheels, as well as a food-bank and goodwill clothing outlet.
“There are many seniors in need,” Habel reminded, “plus poverty is an issue in every part of Quebec. That’s why I decided to get involved and made the plunge into provincial politics. It’s important to help those people who are struggling.”
He thinks his flair for figures will give him an edge in the campaign, in contrast with the Parti québécois’ star youth candidate, Léo Bureau-Blouin, 22, a first-year law student who is running for reelection in a different riding, Laval des Rapides.
“My finance and administration background give me a better understanding of Laval issues,” he contended, “and the quarter-century that I have lived in Laval has acquainted me well with this riding and its people.”
“People seem enthusiastic to see a young person run in this riding,” he reported, insisting that, if they try, young adults can make a decisive difference. “That’s the message that I’m conveying to other youth during this election: get involved.”
Habel added that there is also a lot of resentment in Ste. Rose against the Péquiste government’s unilateral imposition of new flood zones along shorefront properties.
“It’s a big problem in Ste. Rose and Fabre,” he said. “The current MNA [Suzanne Proulx] doesn’t take it seriously enough.”
Residents saw the value of their homes drop instantly by as much as 30 percent, after the province strong-armed Laval into imposing new flood-zone restrictions on homeowners.
“It’s not just affecting property values here,” Habel concluded. “It also harms residents’ quality of life.”
Last week, The Suburban reported that voters in Fabre riding are also incensed by Parti Québécois pressure to phase in flood zone measures precipitously in Laval.
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