What role will former student-protest leader Leo Bureau-Blouin have in new PQ government?

Jesse Michaels
Canada Politics

Leo Bureau-Blouin is not Quebec's youngest politician.

The 20-year-old one-time leader of Quebec's student protest movement has to concede that honour to 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault, elected to Parliament as part of late NDP leader Jack Layton's surge in the province last year.

But Bureau-Blouin, who defeated a Liberal minister to capture a Montreal-area riding for the Parti Quebecois on Tuesday, could end up giving the separatist party a needed dose of youthful vigour.

"This is the biggest honour of my life," Bureau-Blouin told supporters, according to the Montreal Gazette. "The voters in Laval-des-Rapides have spoken loud and clear and they've spoken for change."

The photogenic Bureau-Blouin, a CEGEP (junior college) student, rose to prominence this year as one of the faces of the mass protest against the Liberal government's plan to gradually raise post-secondary tuition fees.

His former colleagues in the protest movement condemned his decision to jump into politics as opportunistic and rejected his calls to abandon street demonstrations for the time being, the Gazette said.

[ Related: Protesting students say Liberals, CAQ disregard youth ]

But after his win Tuesday night, giving the PQ a crucial gain on their way to a minority government, CBC News said he told its French-language network that the new government would cancel the planned tuition hike.

"(This election) has shown that real change can occur when you mobolize," he told reporters, according to the Gazette. "We're going to make sure Quebec retains the most accessible education in North America."

The PQ's support of the protest movement helped attract Bureau-Blouin to the party.

And given that most of the familiar faces in the party date from its heyday in the in 1970s-90s, some observers speculated its cherished sovereignty "project" was in danger of dying with them.

Bureau-Blouin might be a the kind of magnet need to attract young people to the PQ.

Marois defended her decision to accept the callow, inexperienced student as a candidate.

"If we send our young people to war at the age of 20, why couldn't they be capable of being a member of a (political) team?" Marois asked during an election-eve campaign stop Monday, according to the Toronto Star.

But Marois stopped short of eyeing Bureau-Blouin as cabinet material just yet.

"It's certain he won't be a minister," she said Monday. "Excuse me for telling you now, but he won't be a minister.

"Yet we may be able to give him a particular mandate so that he can go out and meet with young people, so that he can go out and do work on the ground."

It'll be interesting to see whether Bureau-Blouin has a long political career, given that many of Canada's top politicians were elected in their twenties.

[ Related: Federal leaders weigh-in on Quebec election results ]

Defeated Liberal Premier Jean Charest, became a Conservative MP at age 26 and at age 28 became the youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history when then-prime minister Brian Mulroney appointed him Minister of State for Youth.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wheel horses in cabinet, was elected to Parliament at age 24.