Three MPs from Montreal expected to have shot
On Oct. 19, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a toehold in the Quebec City area that remained a Conservative Party stronghold.
Université Laval economist Jean-Yves Duclos and 27-year-old immigration lawyer Joël Lightbound caused an upset in their respective ridings of Québec and Louis-Hébert when they became the first Liberals to be elected in the region since Hélène Scherrer in 2000. What lies ahead for the two MPs when the new cabinet is sworn in Wednesday? The Montreal Gazette caught up with the political neophytes just as they prepared to head to Ottawa to begin a new chapter in their lives.
Q: First of all, congratulations. How do you explain the Liberals’ breakthrough in Quebec City?
Lightbound: People were growing tired of the politics that Mr. Harper offered and were really curious about what we had to offer, to do politics differently, more positive, more inclusive and I think that really struck a chord with voters.
Q: You are about to get sworn in as Members of Parliament. Both of you are political rookies — nervous?
Duclos: We have quite a fair share of responsibility to make this region benefit. We’re only two in the area. We have a great wish to collaborate with everyone.
Q: What do you bring to the table?
Lightbound: I’m a lawyer by training. Internet privacy is a subject I’ve researched a lot and somewhat specialized in. It’s something that my generation is worried about. As the youngest MP in government, there are some issues that concern the youth more particularly, such as electoral reform.
Duclos: I’m an economist by training but I’m more of a philosopher by attitude. At school I did better at mathematics and physics but I was more interested in things like sociology. I didn’t know what to do; should I do what I like or what I’m good at? In the end I chose economics because economics is a social science, where numbers matter ... I’m especially interested in the use of science in policy ... Statistics Canada has been so damaged in the last few years, they’ve suffered immensely, so we need to bring Statistics Canada back into social policy.
Q: Has Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume been calling you to talk about his wish list?
Lightbound: I think having two government MPs from Quebec will help. We’ll have access to the ministers. Mr. Trudeau has also pledged to give a greater role to MPs so that they really become the voice of their region in Ottawa. ... Yes, I received a call from Mr. Labeaume. He just wanted to establish a connection, and I think we’ll be meeting with him eventually. It’s in the plans, for sure.
Duclos: I don’t like to be partisan but in some cases it’s important to state the truth. One problem with the previous government is that they would say yes and yes and yes but they would rarely be there to support their words. That’s true for (more funding for) the port, it’s true for the bridge, the airport and the National Optics Institute. They’ve been told yes, but very little has actually happened.
Q: Mr. Duclos, you just said you don’t like to be partisan. Isn’t partisanship a big part of politics?
Duclos: I like to propose and not to oppose. Fortunately we’re in government so it will be easier to propose and to implement than have to oppose. In some cases, and I try to make those cases as rare as possible, to propose things is easier when you oppose them to other things. People understand the difference better when they see the two different pictures. But in most cases it’s possible to propose, be positive and focus on the good things we want to do.
Q: Will you have to shed some of the reflexes that come with being a professor?
Duclos: We’ll see (laughs). To be honest I don’t know, we’ll see. I think we come with the right attitude, the right preparation, the right program and the right plan. The rest remains to be seen.
Q: You’ve been touted by newspapers across the country as someone of high calibre, whose work studying the effects of taxation on poverty and opportunity could very well land him a place in cabinet.
Duclos: I feel I’m extremely well surrounded by great colleagues. ... Regardless of Mr. Trudeau’s choice on Wednesday, I feel perfectly at ease with the responsibilities that will be given to other people in the team. There are so many great people.
Q: Have you both had orientation sessions at the House of Commons yet? What were those like?
Lightbound: Yes, it’s a lot of information in a short period of time, but the House of Commons is a really well-run organization. I went last Monday and Tuesday and I’m going back this Thursday for another whole day of orientation. Information technology, how to access our work emails ... how to staff our office and basically the workings of Parliament on a day-to-day basis and what it involves for us as MPs. You know, you don’t learn to become an MP in university. Q: Will it be a tough learning curve?
Lightbound: I think we’re both fast