Canada’s Youngest MP to Run for Re-Election
Pierre-Luc Dusseault: Conservative Government Doesn’t “Respect Parliament”
Canada’s youngest Member of Parliament is running for re-election and he says other young Canadians should throw their hats into the ring too.
“Go for it,” says 23-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault, the New Democratic Party MP for Sherbrooke. “We need more young people in politics, at every level [of government]. We have a voice and our voice should be heard.”
In the 2011 federal election, Dusseault’s upset victory at the age of 19 made him the youngest person to ever be elected to the House of Commons. As a young MP, Dusseault says he’s concerned about the low voter turnout among Canada’s youth.
“If all young people would vote at, say, 90 per cent, we would see a big difference in the next government. I think youth maybe underestimate their influence,” he told The Link.
People aged 20 to 34 represent roughly a quarter of the voting-aged public, according to Statistics Canada.
“Well, we should have 25 per cent of the votes in the House of Commons,” says Dusseault. “I think it’s really the role of Parliament and of every level, every legislature to be, as much as possible, representative of the general population.”
When Dusseault decided to become a candidate, he was studying applied politics at the Université de Sherbrooke. He ran a “modest campaign” with just $5,000 and a dozen or so volunteers. “I did the best I could, being in different places in the riding, door knocking, giving out flyers, going to old-age residences,” he says.
Swept up in the so-called “orange wave” that washed over Quebec, Dusseault went on to win his seat with 43.1 per cent of the vote. He says voters reacted positively to his age. “People were saying, ‘Oh, it’s nice you’re so young. It’s nice to see young people in politics.’”
But within days of the election, Dusseault had gotten himself into hot water over wading into the debate on Quebec sovereignty. “Sovereignty will be done in Quebec. And Quebecers will decide if they want to be a country,” he told Toronto radio host John Oakley.
His comments and those of other rookie NDP MPs sparked an article in The National Post with the headline “NDP inexperience shows in latest gaffes.”
“Maybe the way I said it wasn’t perfect, because I was not as good at English back then,” Dusseault says.
“I said if Quebec wants [to become independent], they can do it, but I’m not in favour of that. I respect the choice, the decisions people make in a democratic country. If a democracy says something, I think all people should respect that.”
Since he was elected, Dusseault’s typical day on Parliament Hill has consisted of a lot of meetings—committee meetings, the NDP’s national, regional and youth caucus meetings, and meetings with different interest groups.
He has served as the chairperson of two House of Commons standing committees—first the one for access to information, privacy and ethics; later the one that reviews government operations and expenditure plans. One of his most recent actions as chair of that committee was to provide the House with a report on the Conservatives’ Bill C-21, dubbed the “Red Tape Reduction Act.”
“I said if Quebec wants [to become independent], they can do it, but I’m not in favour of that. I respect the choice, the decisions people make in a democratic country. If a democracy says something, I think all people should respect that.”— Pierre-Luc Dusseault
Passed by the House and now before the Senate, the bill seeks to enshrine into law the so-called “one-for-one” rule implemented in 2012, which states that government departments and agencies should remove a regulation each time they implement a new one so as not to increase the administrative burden on businesses.
It’s a bill that Dusseault calls “useless” and “just a smokescreen.”
“At the end of the day, you’re still [left] with the same number of regulations,” he says. “One minus one is zero. There’s no reduction in red tape.
“The Conservative government is branding itself as being pro-business and everything and they try to paint [the NDP] as not being pro-business. It’s fair game. It’s politics. They have the right to do that, but we have some very good policies for small business,” he adds.
Mid-interview, a bell chimes in the hallway outside Dusseault’s office on the fourth floor of the Confederation Building just west of Parliament. Getting up from his chair at the head of the table, Dusseault finds a remote to turn on the television in the corner of the room.
The proceedings in the House of Commons come onscreen. MPs will soon vote on a motion for time allocation that would limit the length of debate on Bill C-44, the government’s spy bill.
Called the “Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act,” the bill would give “greater protection” to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s confidential informants, as well as confirm the right of the federal court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada.
It’s the 85th time the Conservatives have used time allocation to curtail debate on one of their bills, breaking the previously established record, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said in the House.
“We will vote against [time allocation], for sure, but they have the majority,” Dusseault notes.
“The current government, I think, doesn’t really respect Parliament,” he adds. “They use time allocation and closure on different bills. They fast-forward every bill in committee.”
Deciding to run again in the upcoming election was an “easy choice,” according to Dusseault. But with the NDP in third place in opinion polls, it’ll be a challenging campaign for the party. Dusseault says he sees all candidates as people who can possibly defeat him.
“We never know in politics, so I don’t take anything for granted,” he says.
The Liberal Party has nominated 68-year-old Tom Allen as their candidate in Sherbrooke. In a phone interview, Allen said he wants to convince people to vote “for” him, not “against” Dusseault. “It’s a vote for, it’s never a vote against,” he said.
Facing off against Canada’s youngest MP, the Liberal candidate told The Link he relates well to younger generations and the issues of concern to them. “I coached university athletes, CEGEP athletes all my life,” he says.
Allen served for 16 years as a city councillor and worked for nearly 30 years as a sports director, first at Champlain College and then at Bishop’s University. He says he chose to run with the Liberals because of the party’s “support of the middle class” and “the general philosophy of being liberal.”
“I think that we would be the best option for Canadians across the country to be the next party in power,” he added.
Like Allen, Dusseault says he wants to help his party “become the next government.” If the NDP forms government after the election, Dusseault says the party will take the country in a different direction than the Conservatives, beginning with the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in December 2015 in Paris.
“Our leader has been saying for a couple of years that our first important action on the international scene will be to go there and play an important role, an active role, on this issue,” Dusseault says.
“I think it will be a very big change in direction from the current government, who don’t really participate in those conferences and always receive [Fossil of the Year] prizes.”