POLITICS

Young Politicians No Longer A Novelty In Canada

10/30/2013 05:00 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
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At age 30, David Joanasie is the youngest person to be elected to the Nunavut legislature, but by the current standards in the House of Commons and some of the country's provincial legislatures, the newly elected MLA who won a seat Monday night in the territory's fourth election is long in the tooth.

Entering politics at a young age is nothing new. Joe Clark was just 39 when he became prime minister of the country, having been first elected to Parliament at age 33 in 1972. Bob Rae won his first seat in the House of Commons at age 30 as an NDP MP in a 1978 federal byelection.

We take a look at some recently elected politicians who've attracted attention for their young age.

Pierre Luc Dessault, NDP MP, Sherbrooke (Born: May 31, 1991) — The youngest MP in Canada's history, Dessault was part of the NDP's crop of young, fresh-faced MPs elected in the May 2011 election. He was a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday when he was elected and has recently been chosen to chair the government operation and estimates committee.

The McGill Four — Charmaine Borg (Born: Nov. 3, 1990), Matthew Dubé (Born: May 3, 1988), Mylène Freeman (Born: March 7, 1989) and Laurin Liu (Born: Nov. 13, 1990) got their nickname because when they were elected as NDP MPs in Quebec in May 2011, three of them were still enrolled as students at McGill University and the fourth had only just graduated. All were in their early 20s at the time. 

Andrew Scheer, Conservative MP for Regina-Qu'Appelle, Sask. (Born: May 20, 1979) — Scheer was elected in June 2004 at the age of 25 and made history seven years later when he became the youngest Speaker of the House.

Niki Ashton, NDP MP for Churchill, Man. (Born: Sept. 9, 1982) — Ashton was just 23 when she made her first bid for a seat in the House of Commons in 2006. She lost that election but was successful two years later. A mere four years after that, she made a bid for the leadership of her party, promising a new kind of politics that would inspire people of her generation. She lost the race to replace Jack Layton but earned a spot in winning candidate Tom Mulcair's shadow cabinet, heading up the portfolio devoted to women's issues.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau, NDP MP for Berthier-Maskinongé, Que. (Born: April 26, 1984) — Brosseau grabbed headlines not only for her relatively young age during the 2011 election campaign but also when her legitimacy as a candidate was questioned. The then 28-year-old was criticized for not living in the riding she was seeking to represent, going to Las Vegas on vacation during the campaign and accused of not having her nomination papers in order. She survived those scandals and continues to serve in Parliament.

Pierre Poilievre, Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, Ont. (Born: June 3, 1979) — Poilievre was 25 when he was first elected in June 2004 and has held several high-ranking positions since then, including parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, to the minister of intergovernmental affairs and to the president of the Treasury Board; and, currently, minister of state for democratic reform.

Chris Warkentin, Conservative MP for Peace River, Alta. (Born: Nov. 20, 1978) —​ Warkentin began his political career as a member of the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance before being elected to the House as a Conservative MP at the age of 27 in the January 2006 federal election. He chaired the standing committee on aboriginal affairs and northern development from June 2011 to September 2013.

Young politicos thriving locally, too

There have also been some notable young faces at the local, provincial and territorial level.

Canada has its share of young mayors. Luke Strimbold was 21 when he was elected mayor of Burns Lake, B.C., in November 2011 and got a literal baptism by fire when, less than two months into his term, there was an explosion at the local sawmill that destroyed the town's main employer, killed two workers and injured almost two dozen people. 

La Ronge, Sask., mayor Thomas Sierzycki was also 21 when he was elected in 2009 and, like Strimbold, still holds the position.

Kurtis Coombs made headlines when he was elected mayor of Paradise , N.L., at the age of 19 by a margin of just three votes and was poised to match Albertan Clayton Smith's record as the youngest mayor in Canadian history, but he lost that title less than 48 hours later when a recount and a tiebreaker cast his opponent as the ultimate winner.

Edmonton's new mayor, Don Iveson, who was sworn in Tuesday, is an old fogey at 34 by comparison.

Quebec saw youngest MNA elected last year

Provincially, there are quite a few 20- and 30somethings filling the seats in the country's legislatures. Below is a small sampling of some of them.

Léo Bureau-Blouin was just 20 and a leader of Quebec's student movement when he was elected to the province's national assembly in September 2012 as the Parti Québécois MNA for the Laval-des-Rapides riding. He became the youngest person to be elected to the Quebec legislature and took the shine off other young MNAs such as the PQ's Mathieu Traversy and Dave Turcotte, who were 24 and 25, respectively, when they were elected.

Residents of Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, N.S., took a chance on 26-year-old Ben Jessome earlier this month, giving the Cape Breton University graduate and Liberal Party member his first full-time job by electing him to the provincial legislature. His colleague Zach Churchill was also 26 when he was elected Liberal MLA for Yarmouth. Churchill was recently chastised for using his BlackBerry in the legislature and had the smartphone confiscated by the sergeant-at-arms. He told the Halifax Herald newspaper rules that banned cellphones during sittings of the legislature were out of date and out of step with the work and lifestyle habits of his generation. He was also tossed out of the legislature for heckling NDP MLAs.

Several of New Brunswick's MLAs are in their late 20s or early 30s. Progressive Conservative MLA Ryan Riordon was around 28 when he was first elected in 2010. Current Leader of the Opposition Brian Gallant was just 30 when he was chosen to head the New Brunswick Liberals at a leadership convention in October of last year. He won a seat in the legislative assembly in a byelection this past April.

Newfoundland and Labrador MHA Christopher Mitchelmore, who made news this week when he quit the NDP caucus to sit as an independent, was just shy of his 26th birthday when he was elected to the province's house of assembly in 2011 and is currently the youngest member of the province's legislature.

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