I posted on Tuesday about three Canadian student activists who — to their surprise and everyone else’s — were elected to their nation’s parliament on Monday. Since then, reporting in the Canadian press have revealed that they are just three of six undergraduate students who won seats this week. At least half of the six are under twenty-one years old, and one, at nineteen, is the youngest Member of Parliament in Canada’s history.
All six of the students are members of Canada’s New Democratic Party, which until this year was a minor player in that country’s politics. But in polls leading up to this election the Liberals, Canada’s main center-left party, declined significantly, while the Quebec-nationalist Bloc Quebecois utterly collapsed. In the face of this party realignment many liberal Canadians, particularly in Quebec, unexpectedly cast their votes for the NDP. As a result, candidates who had been recruited as placeholders — many of whom did little or no campaigning — found themselves thrust into office.
Mylène Freeman is a past president of the McGill NDP club, graduating with a politics degree this spring. Freeman is from Ontario, but “fluently bilingual,” which is an important consideration in Quebec. She worked for the NDP in the country’s last national election in 2008, has run for Montreal city council in the past, and coordinates a program at McGill that is designed to encourage young women to volunteer in MPs offices.
Charmaine Borg, 20, is one of the co-presidents of the McGill NDP club this year, and has experience as a union organizer on campus. She was planning to study abroad in Mexico next semester, but will be moving to Ottawa instead.
Matthew Dubé, also 20, is Borg’s co-president at the McGill NDP club. He’s been keeping a low profile since the election.
Laurin Liu, who is 20 as well, is a second-year student, doing a joint degree in history and cultural studies. She spent election day volunteering in a district a few miles from her own, working to help re-elect one of the NDP’s few incumbent MPs. Liu is involved with student government and the campus radio station at McGill, and is now trying to figure out how to handle the logistics of legislating and constituent services — she doesn’t have a driver’s license or own a car.
Marie-Claude Morin is one of the two new students not enrolled at McGill, with one semester remaining until she graduates from the Université du Québec à Montréal. Like Dubé, she’s been mostly declining interviews this week.
The youngest of the six new student MPs is Pierre-Luc Dusseault, 19, who is doing a degree in applied political studies at the Université de Sherbrooke. Unlike many of his fellow winners, Dusseault stumped strenuously in his district, which is home to the university he attends. (He also reportedly made extensive use of Twitter in his campaign.) Desseault, a first-year student who co-founded the Université de Sherbrooke NDP club just months ago, calls himself a “political junkie” and had planned to spend the summer working at a local golf course if he didn’t win.
The six undergrads have been elected to four-year terms, with annual salaries of $157,000. I’m fascinated to see how their stories develop.