Montreal

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec Solidaire's great hope

Members of Québec Solidaire weren't shy about expressing interest in Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois after Françoise David announced her departure. In fact, the left-wing party has been trying to lure the former student leader for years.

Party looks to woo charismatic former student leader following resignation of Françoise David

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, 26, shot to fame as one of the leaders of the 2012 student strikes in Quebec. Now he's being wooed by Québec Solidaire. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Members of Québec Solidaire weren't shy about expressing their interest in Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois after Françoise David, one of the party's founders, quit politics last week.

In fact, the left-wing, pro-independence party has been trying to recruit the former student leader for years — ever since he emerged as a dynamic force during the so-called Maple Spring in 2012.

"We've been saying it since 2012. We've never hidden it from anyone," Amir Khadir, one of the party's two remaining MNAs, told Radio-Canada on Friday.

Khadir and fellow Québec Solidaire MNA Manon Massé both contend Nadeau-Dubois would be ideally suited to run for the party in the coming byelection in Gouin, David's old Montreal riding.

David, who at 69 said she "no longer has the strength" to head the party, seems to share that opinion.

At her outgoing news conference, she said it was time for a new generation to take the reins of the party and argued Nadeau-Dubois would be a good fit.

Nadeau-Dubois, for his part, has only said he is thinking about the offer. 

"I am touched by the fact that many of you have written me directly to encourage me to jump into politics," he wrote Sunday on his Facebook page. "I say that with all sincerity."

Political clout, outside politics

While the charismatic, photo-friendly 26-year-old would be a coup for any party, his political outlook aligns well with Québec Solidaire's progressive social policies and environmentalism.

He has been an outspoken opponent of the Energy East pipeline, helping to raise $400,000 against the proposed project in a single week last year. He's also earned praise as a regular commentator on Radio-Canada's flagship morning radio show.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois met with with Quebecers across the province last fall as part of the Faut qu'on se parle project. (Radio-Canada)
So far, though, Nadeau-Dubois has resisted joining any political party — unlike two other key figures from the student protests.

Both Léo Bureau-Blouin and Martine Desjardins have run as candidates for the Parti Québécois. Bureau-Blouin even managed to win a seat in the 2012 election. 

Nadeau-Dubois chose a different route. He published a book, Tenir tête, which won the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award winner for non-fiction.

And last fall, Nadeau-Dubois, along with several other prominent progressives in a project called Faut qu'on se parle ("We have to talk"), held discussion forums across the province.

Hundreds gathered in auditoriums across Quebec to talk about pressing political and social issues, such as how to reform education and preserve the environment.

Alongside these public forums, the project also organized smaller gatherings — dubbed kitchen parties — hoping to encourage political discussions in homes, among friends.

"What will come out of these proposals has not yet been decided. We leave all the doors open," Nadeau-Dubois said back when the forums began.

The project is supposed to summarize its findings in the coming weeks. 

Ready for 'action'

Nadeau-Dubois, who just returned from a trip abroad, said he won't make public any decision about his future until he wraps up his commitments with the Faut qu'on se parle project. 

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the CLASSE student group, centre right, was a key figure in the 2012 student protests. He is seen here alongside Paul-Émile Auger, Martine Desjardins and Léo Bureau-Blouin. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Nadeau-Dubois outlined his dilemma. 

"I have come to the realization that what really drives me, what inspires me, is to get involved in political action in the large sense," he said.

"Will it be at the legislative level or with social movements is the question."

Joining Québec Solidaire, though, might require Nadeau-Dubois keep his ambitions modest. The party finished fourth in the 2014 provincial election, with only eight per cent of the popular vote.

With files from The Canadian Press

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