On Oct. 18, the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) McGill hosted PLQ leader Philippe Couillard and local Liberal Members of the National Assembly at McGill’s Thomson House.
This event marked Couillard’s first introduction to the McGill community as the leader of the PLQ. His predecessor, Jean Charest, resigned last September following the party’s loss in the provincial election. Couillard, a former neurosurgeon and professor at Université de Sherbrooke, spoke on the history of the PLQ and its values.
“I always start by telling people who we are—the history of our party, founded in 1867, centred around the economy, jobs creation, and individual freedoms,” Couillard said.
Couillard also spoke on the party’s stance on current issues and policy, notably the debate surrounding the Quebec Charter of Values, a bill proposed by the incumbent Parti Québécois. The bill seeks to implement certain provisions such as restricting public sector workers from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. Couillard spoke on the PLQ’s opposition to the bill and the importance of individual freedoms.
“We don’t like [the proposed charter] at all. Because we are so much attached to individual freedoms that we will never allow the government to jeopardize those freedoms that we had fought so hard for,” Couillard said. “That’s why we are going to be tough on those issues.”
Although the crowd was small—approvimately 50 members of the McGill and Montreal community were present—attendees were engaged throughout the event, and Couillard’s answers to questions were regularly met with rounds of applause. Luca Varone, a U3 Law student and PLQ supporter, said that he was impressed by Couillard’s presentation.
“I wanted to get to know Couillard a little better [….] He has struck me as a rather sincere politician and this event confirmed my impression,” Varone said. “I was struck by not only the conciliatory tone but also the positive rhetoric […] he commands by [making] clear statements [….] As a result of this, I think I would consider getting more into the Liberal Party.”
As a campus group, PLQ McGill acts as a liaison between the PLQ and McGill students looking to become involved with the party. Marten Crevier, U2 Arts and member of PLQ McGill, spoke on the club’s goal to raise awareness for the party and Quebec politics as a whole.
“To introduce the values of PLQ to people [is not our only goal],’’ Crevier said. “A good number of students are international students […] so simply to educate people on the political dynamic in Quebec is an interesting thing.’’
Couillard spoke on the importance of speaking at events in order to access the younger generation, which he said is a basis of support for the party.
“We have a very powerful youth wing in our party that gets 33 per cent of the vote in large convention, which is unique in Canada,” Couillard said. “So to be able to recruit members in CEGEP and universities for us is extremely important—either [to] become members or […] interested in our ideas.’’
The PLQ will continue its tour of universities with visits to Laval and UQAM in the coming weeks.