Francis Vachon Le Devoir The co-spokespersons of Québec solidaire, Manon Massé and Gabriel NadeauDubois, both describe themselves as “activists at heart”.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé “didn’t even have time to have a beer together” when they inherited the positions of spokesperson for Québec solidaire (QS) in 2017. On the eve of Ms. Massé's departure, and despite the party's plateauing in the polls, the duo believes they have succeeded in “rallying a generation.”
Manon Massé's political involvement began in the street, with the Du pain et des roses march, in 1995. That of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois too, 17 years later, with the Printemps érable. “We are two activists at heart,” summarizes Mr. Nadeau-Dubois in an interview in his colleague's offices, a few days before she passes the baton of female co-spokesperson for QS to another.
For many, starting with Manon Massé herself, the comparison ends there.
“GND”, 33 years old, has by his own admission become the “little nerda little annoying” in a suit and tie. First leader, then parliamentary leader. Fond of activist bodies and work in the National Assembly, adds Ms. Massé, 60 years old. At the same time, “I haven’t dreamed of being an MP since I was 3 years old,” says the former community worker. And 17 years after her first political candidacy, in 2006, she still proudly sports long hair, a mustache and a love of the streets.
However, when Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois talks about the woman he has worked with at the head of QS since his arrival in 2017, his eyes fill with water. “When I look today at the team we have become… Lord! he blurted out, his voice cracking with emotion. When I look at what we developed and where we were at that time, it’s crazy. »
“You will come join us”
The Massé–Nadeau-Dubois relationship blossomed in the spring of 2012. As co-spokesperson for CLASSE (the broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity), GND then led the student movement against the increase in fees of schooling. Manon Massé was an activist and, above all, a regular QS candidate. Later that summer, she would try for a fourth time to be elected as a deputy.
The one who today represents Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques still remembers the first words she addressed to his future colleague on March 22, 2012, the day of national demonstration for tuition fees.
“I remember that I spoke to you behind the stage,” relates Ms. Massé, her gaze turned towards the man she affectionately calls Gab. I just told you: “Look, thank you for doing what you do, because we need Quebec youth to put themselves into transformation mode, into social change mode. Then when you are ready, you will come and join us at Québec solidaire.” »
The first formal approach came later, in 2014, as QS worked to form its team of candidates for the general election. For Ms. Massé and the male co-spokesperson at the time, Andrés Fontecilla, the former student leader sat at the top of the list.
“I declined the first proposal which was made to me, reveals Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois almost 10 years later. I wasn't ready to go into politics at that time. I arrived young, already, but here, I was five years younger. »
“We’re starting this cold”
Manon Massé had wanted for a while “for GND to join Québec solidaire”. But at no time did she imagine that she would form the party’s co-spokesperson duo with him. When they were elected spokesperson for the party in 2017, the two politicians had “never even had a beer together,” says Mr. Nadeau-Dubois.
“It’s a job of great intimacy, the work of co-spokesperson, but we start it cold. We don't know each other, and we still arrive in a context of great turbulence,” he raises, in reference to the 2017 members' congress, which saw solidarity activists reject an alliance with the Parti Québécois.
The next few years will see the party “rally a generation”, rejoices Ms. Massé.
GND admits having arrived in office, at 27, with “a lot of certainty” and “not enough of doubts.” This was followed by the election in 2018 of a caucus of 10 deputies, including Catherine Dorion, who published a book last week in which she criticizes the leadership style of the solidarity co-spokesperson.
“Pained” to know that the former member of Taschereau “comes out hurt” from her time in politics, Ms. Massé still defends the work done alongside Mr. Nadeau-Dubois. “A certain number of elements that Catherine raises in her book are questions that we asked ourselves and that we still ask ourselves today,” she maintains. The idea is that Québec solidaire wants to govern. And to govern, well, we had to demonstrate that we were a credible party. I think that this demonstration, since we became co-spokespersons, we have made it. »
Mr. Nadeau-Dubois agrees that there are “things to change” at QS. During the campaign to succeed Manon Massé, the three candidates repeatedly questioned the program that the party proposed during the 2022 elections. And the left-wing party continues to plateau in the polls.
At the 2021 Solidarity Congress, members voted 94% and 95% respectively to renew the co-spokesperson mandates of Mr. Nadeau-Dubois and Ms. Massé. Two years later, “we have to put our eyes to the holes,” says the member for Gouin, who wants to continue to draw inspiration from the “listening” of his sidekick in recent years.
“The notion of a vote of confidence does not strictly speaking exist in Québec solidaire. After that, I'm a big enough boy to understand that it's going to be interpreted like that by a lot of people,” he says.
If she welcomes the “openness to improve” of the activists of QS, Ms. Massé invites them to take a look at the results. “It’s something in North America to have a left-wing party that aspires to social justice. And that party has 12 deputies,” said the elected official, who intends to run again in the 2026 elections.
“People predicted that Québec solidaire would not survive Françoise David and Amir Khadir , she says to GND. When people dare to say that you will not survive the departure of Manon Massé, I do not agree. »