No shame in being Liberal, incoming party youth president says

Down in the polls and without a permanent leader, the Liberals continue to rebuild, with the youth wing debating policy in Montreal.

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The incoming president of the Quebec Liberal youth wing says members should not be shy about affirming their party allegiance during the continuing rebuilding process.

Élyse Moisan, who takes over the role Sept. 1, said despite the current doldrums the Liberals find themselves in, there is still a future for its vision of Quebec.

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“Personally, I am not ashamed about being Liberal,” Moisan told reporters as the youth wing kicked off a one-day party convention Saturday in Montreal.

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“What’s important is to put ourselves in the middle of his (party) relaunch. I am very anxious to debate. In my view, anyone who asks questions or thinks of their future has a place here.”

Moisan, who is fluently bilingual and studies at Concordia University, made the comments as the Liberal youth used their convention to wade into the debate over the party’s future. About 75 Liberal youth, age 16-25, are attending. The Parti Québécois youth wing, which held their convention a week earlier in Quebec City, drew 200 people.

In fact, most of the workshops at the convention were devoted to the Liberal relaunch process that is being managed by a 14-member task force co-chaired by former journalist André Pratte and Bourassa-Sauvé MNA Madwa-Nika Cadet.

So far, the committee has concluded, after meeting Liberals across Quebec, the members want to stick to their core values, such as economic and social development as well as being open and inclusive, Pratte and Cadet said in an interview in June with the Montreal Gazette.

Arriving for the meeting, interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay welcomed the input from the youth wing, which, in the past, wielded considerable influence in the party.

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“They bring their energy, their creativity, their passion,” Tanguay told reporters. “They want to talk about the economy, housing, the environment.”

On hand, Pratte, a former senator, also welcomed their views, telling delegates Quebec is at a “critical point,” of its history and it’s time to speak up.

“We have (in power) a government which is arrogant, which is authoritarian, centralizing, incapable of clear thinking, which breaks its word and violates the fundamental rights of Quebecers,” Pratte told the group. “The last time we saw this in our history was in the ’50s under Maurice Duplessis, and we know where that went.

“So it’s very important that there be an alternative, which believes in democracy, which believes in fundamental rights and the defence of Quebec inside Canada. It’s important that this alternative exist and this alternative has to be ready — first for the byelection in Jean-Talon, and the general election of 2026.

“It takes an alternative and it has to be the Liberal Party of Quebec.”

Pratte added after obtaining the worst electoral result in its 156-year history, the Liberals today are “lucid, but determined” about its future.

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Delegates took their cue. In the afternoon, following the workshops on the party’s future, they adopted new policy resolutions. One calls on a future Liberal government to abolish interest payments on student loans.

Another calls on the party to commit itself to evaluating the possibility of adding 11 “and even more,” seats to the National Assembly for each of Quebec Indigenous nations.

In a speech closing the convention, Tanguay said Quebecers are growing weary of the Coalition Avenir Québec’s style of governing.

“We will give a voice to people who don’t think like (Premier) François Legault, who think it’s important to include everybody,” Tanguay said. “We cannot govern a society by dividing Quebecers based on their origin, language or place of residence.”

He ripped into the government’s health record.

“It’s easier to get tickets to Taylor Swift than a family doctor in Quebec,” he said as the crowd roared.

He reminded them about Liberal values, which includes creating wealth to better distribute it to those in need.

“And being Liberal is being able to link being nationalist with being federalist,” he said. “The federation by definition is a living tree. It takes debates. But don’t count on the PQ, François Legault or (Québec solidaire co-spokesperson) Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois to ensure the Canadian federation flourishes.”

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“We, as Liberals, will take back this affirmation role of Quebec in the federation. Our solution will never be to say, if things don’t work, we will separate from Canada. It’s not our vision. We built the country together. It belongs to us. We are proud to be Canadian.”

The next real electoral test, however, for the party is the yet-to-be-called byelection in the Quebec City riding of Jean-Talon to replace departing CAQ MNA Joëlle Boutin, who resigned in July.

On Friday, a fresh Léger poll commissioned by the PQ showed the CAQ and PQ neck-in-neck in the lead up to the vote. The Liberals, who held the riding for many years before the CAQ won it, are way behind in fourth place.

“We always say the real poll will be voting day,” Tanguay responded, dodging the question. “We are already at work. We’ll be ready for Jean-Talon.”

Hovering in the background of the convention is the party’s own leadership situation. The party has not had a full-time leader since the resignation of Dominque Anglade after the disastrous 2022 election.

Tanguay is on the list of potential candidates as is Nelligan MNA Monsef Derraji and Marguerite-Bourgeoys MNA Frédéric Beauchemin. Pontiac MNA André Fortin, who mulled over a run for the job, announced this summer he would not seek it for family reasons.

Candidates have been holding off on announcing their intentions, saying they want to see the rules of the race first. The party will adopt them at their next major event, a general council meeting Oct. 14 in Drummondville.

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