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19-year-old sets record as youngest MP

MONTREAL - Nineteen-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault planned to work a summer job at a golf course if his foray into federal politics didn't work out.

He can forget the links.

The teenage longshot is now headed to Ottawa as the youngest member to ever sit in Canada's federal Parliament, joining dozens of other New Democrats in Quebec who scored unlikely victories on Monday night.

Instead of working his way around the green fairways, he will learn his way around the green parquet of the House of Commons as the new MP for Sherbrooke. His new starting salary is $157,731.

Dusseault ran a grassroots campaign in the university town east of Montreal. He says he always believed he had a chance.

"I did a full-time campaign and I was there to win, I wasn't there to be a figurehead, I was involved in the debates and I was present on the ground," Dusseault said.

"I worked to win and our efforts bore fruit."

Despite the steep learning curve, he said he's ready more than ready to tackle Ottawa.

The political neophyte is co-founder and president of the NDP association at the Universite de Sherbrooke, where he finished his first year as a political science student.

Dusseault is a self-described political junkie who has already been to Ottawa and visited the House of Commons. He also admits to watching a lot of CPAC, the TV channel that broadcasts parliamentary proceedings.

"I know the game," Dusseault said confidently.

Dusseault turns 20 at the end of this month. At 19 years, 11 months, he will be the youngest MP ever to serve in Ottawa. He replaces Claude-Andre Lachance, who has held the distinction for over a quarter-century. Lachance was elected as a Trudeau Liberal in 1974 at the age of 20 years, three months, in a Montreal riding.

Coincidentally, Dusseault was also voting for the first time on Monday. His maiden exercise in democracy was a no-brainer — he simply ticked the circle next to his own name.

"It's not a difficult choice," quipped the Granby, Que., native.

The local campaign started slowly until the university year ended. That's when Dusseault made a push, hitting the streets and parks. He said people in Sherbrooke made it clear they wanted change.

"All the people I met were saying we want a young MP, we want change and the NDP is the new voice of Quebec," Dusseault said.

From 1984 to 1998 the riding was held by then-Progressive Conservative Jean Charest, currently premier of Quebec.

Since 1998, the riding had been held solidly by long-time Bloc Quebecois member Serge Cardin, who'd never received less than 44 per cent of the vote.

Sherbrooke is a riding where the NDP had never finished better than fourth in recent elections, but was among nearly six-dozen seats swept up in Monday's orange tide.

Dusseault said he's thankful the voters in his Eastern Townships riding have given him and, by extension, Canadian youth the chance to represent them. Dusseault said more young people are needed in the House of Commons.

The son of a daycare administrator and a warehouse manager, Dusseault said he would still like to finish his university degree after his political career is over.

But for now, priorities include meeting with other NDP MPs and setting up a riding office. He also will need to pick up a few more suits and he plans to improve his English.

"Maybe some won't take me seriously in the beginning, but I'm ready to work hard and earn my spot," Dusseault said.

"In the coming weeks, months, years, I'll show those who are skeptical that the youth have their place and can get the job done."

The Canadian Press


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Posted in: News by NewsBot on June 1, 2011 @ 8:30 PM


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