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Globe editorial: Quebec’s new kid on the political block

A cat has been set among Quebec's political pigeons, and his name is Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

He came to prominence during the raucous and occasionally violent student protests that racked the province in 2012. He fronted the most radical of the student groups opposing then-Premier Jean Charest's planned tuition hikes.

After years of speculation, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois has decided to leap into elected politics, assuming the posture of the moment: swashbuckling outsider and scourge of the established political class.

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Not only will he shortly sit in the National Assembly – he's running unopposed in a by-election in Montreal's working-class riding of Gouin – he is expected to co-lead Québec Solidaire, which would make him the first millennial to head a party in the province.

Québec Solidaire, a far-left sovereigntist party with a dicephal leadership structure – two co-leaders, one female and one male – has been little more than an urban political curiosity, since it came into being just over a decade ago.

But these are unusual political times.

A provincial vote is just over 18 months away and the Parti Québécois, the main sovereigntist party for generations, is polling poorly. Its core voters are aging, and it is led by consummate backroomer Jean-François Lisée, who will be 60 come election day. Mr. Nadeau-Dubois is 26.

According to the PQ's internal reviews, its hopes for electoral success depend on winning over young voters. The sudden appearance of one of their own on the ballot, representing an alternative to the PQ, could make things very interesting.

Premier Philippe Couillard's Liberals remain the favourites to hold on to power but pollsters detect growing voter disgruntlement. As for the PQ, it is unlikely to win without wooing supporters back from the sovereigntist fringe parties.

Québec Solidaire has only ever held three ridings in its history, none of them outside the island of Montreal. There is no guarantee it will do better with Mr. Nadeau-Dubois having one hand on the helm. But his arrival could further split the sovereignist vote, denying the PQ the generational revival it has long sought.

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