POLITICS

Ex-leader of student protest movement to run for PQ in next election

07/24/2012 12:49 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - A star of the Quebec student protest movement announced Tuesday he is running for the Parti Quebecois in the next provincial election.

Leo Bureau-Blouin, the former president of the association representing Quebec junior college students, said in an open letter that he wants to take an active role in creating public policy.

Media reports swirled Tuesday that Bureau-Blouin, who was considered a moderate among the student leaders, would make the jump to the PQ.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois was coy about the possibility of him joining her team but has scheduled a news conference on Wednesday in Laval-des-Rapides riding where he says he will be running. The PQ has not yet given an official reason for the news conference other than to say it concerns the next election.

Bureau-Blouin, who was given high public approval ratings during the student dispute over tuition fee hikes, said in his letter he was proud to represent thousands of students wanting a more accessible education system.

He said he chose the PQ because he believes it offers a chance for a Quebec that is fairer, stronger and more environmentally friendly to present itself on the international scene.

"We have the opportunity now to improve the quality of our schools, to develop our infrastructure, to increase the efficiency of our health care system, to become a country and, most importantly, to build a participatory democracy," he wrote.

"I think the re-election of the Liberal party would lead to more cynicism, social inequality and lack of interest in public affairs."

He said he plans to release a 10-point program in the near future and will use social media extensively during his campaign.

Premier Jean Charest is expected to call the election next Wednesday for Sept. 4.

Bureau-Blouin, 20, will face off against junior finance minister Alain Paquet in the riding.

Paquet was part of the government team that participated in the last round of negotiations with student leaders in June.

Bureau-Blouin had already resigned by then.

Charest dismissed news of Bureau-Blouin's candidacy in Quebec City, saying it only shows the links between the PQ and the students.

Marois and the PQ were quick to jump on the anti-tuition fee increase bandwagon back when the protests began in February and stuck to their position despite assertions by opponents that the party and its leader were just being opportunists.

They wore the red square symbol until June when Marois said she was ditching it in favour of the fleur-de-lis for Quebec's Fete nationale.

Critics said she was trying to distance herself from the students as many Quebecers supported the tuition increases.

The PQ has had the most nuanced policy on tuition of all the major parties. The Liberals and the Coalition avenir Quebec support the fee hikes; the left-wing Quebec solidaire deeply opposes them and casts the issue as a historic social-justice battle.

Meanwhile, the PQ explained over the spring that its decision to wear the red square didn't mean it opposed fee hikes, or supported rowdy protests, but rather was meant as an expression of support for the student cause.

Marois has said that if she's elected, she will rescind Charest's hikes, but introduce smaller ones.