McGill students who voted in the ridings of Robert-Baldwin or Gouin on Oct. 1 will have seen the names of fellow classmates on the ballot. Two current McGill undergraduate students, Luca Brown and Alice Sécheresse, are running for office in the 2018 Quebec provincial elections.
Brown, U2 Arts, is majoring in political science and minoring in sociology. He is currently a candidate for the New Democratic Party of Quebec (NDPQ) in his riding, Robert-Baldwin, on Montreal’s West Island. Brown became involved with the federal NDP over the summer of 2017, working on Member of Parliament (MP) Niki Ashton’s leadership election campaign. This past summer, Brown worked on drawing attention to the stories of people who lack food security for the community organization Table de Quartier Sud de l’Ouest-de-l’Île. He presented his project and goals at a committee meeting at which current fellow NDPQ candidate France Séguin was in attendance. Séguin then asked Brown if he would run for the party.
For Brown, running for office was initially intimidating, but, ultimately, it was a valuable learning experience.
“I’m 21 years old, I’ve never done politics before,” Brown said. “I’ve never been a candidate, so I was super afraid and a bit nervous but also very excited to try this out [….] I thought it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Brown is still a full-time student and is taking five classes on top of his campaign responsibilities.
“I don’t have a big budget,” Brown said. “I have one volunteer so it’s very grassroots.”
Sécheresse, U3 Arts, is studying International Development Studies, Environment, and African Studies. She is currently a candidate for the Green Party of Quebec in the riding of Gouin. Sécheresse found the process of getting involved to be surprisingly straightforward.
“You apply to be a candidate and you have a bunch of interviews and meetings with the party where they can see where you stand [in] the political sphere,” Sécheresse said. “It was pretty simple, but it was a great experience.”
Sécheresse is also the president of Greenpeace McGill, an environmental activist organization which she described as a crucial motivation for her interest in politics.
“The environment, minority rights, and women’s rights are very close to my heart,” Sécheresse said. “That’s why I decided to get involved with Greenpeace when I first came to McGill.”
Other McGill students are involved in politics in less direct ways. Jean-Philippe Roch, U2 Management, is a member of Liberal McGill, sits on his local MP Frank Baylis’ Constituency Youth Council, and is Vice-President Politics of the Young Liberals of Canada Quebec (YLCQ). He is also involved in the Outremont by-election for Rachel Bendayan and Jonathan Plamondon for La-Pointe-de-l’Île.
Roch believes that, with cooperation, there is potential for youth to change the system.
“You have to work together as a team with the party you choose, and you do things behind the scenes that nobody will realize, but are necessary,” Roch said. “Sometimes, we feel like the system can’t really change, but, when you’re actually a part of the process, things [can] change [….] A good example of that is the legalization of cannabis […which] happened […] because of young people.”
Brown, Sécheresse, and Roch agreed that student engagement in politics is important. Sécheresse highlighted the many opportunities youth have to become politically involved.
“Help out a party, help out a person or member of national assembly (MNA) that you are inspired by,” Sécheresse said. “You’re automatically entering a sphere where people support you […] and who are going to help you achieve what you want to achieve.”