Pubdate: Wed, 28 Oct 2015
Source: Glengarry News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Glengarry News
Author: Steven Warburton
Page: 5


After his landslide victory in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell last week,
Francis Drouin is the freshest face on the local political scene.
Though he's somewhat new to his constituents in Glengarry, he is
hardly a stranger to political life. His father and grandfather were
both longtime players in Hawkesbury's political scene and now, at the
age of 32, Mr. Drouin is ready to jump into a full-time political
career. Mr. Drouin visited The Glengarry News for an interview with
managing editor, Steven Warburton.

Q. On the evening of the Oct. 19 federal election, most of us in the
media were predicting a tight race in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. Were
you also expecting a tight race and were you surprised when you
defeated the incumbent, Conservative Pierre Lemieux, by more than
10,000 votes?

A. During the campaign, I always said I was campaigning like I was
10,000 votes behind. That's always going to be my modus operandi. It
doesn't matter if I won by a thousand votes or ten thousand votes. For
me, right now, it's all about serving my constituents. Of course I was
surprised by the margin but that's not to say I don't keep my two feet
on the ground. I have to work hard to earn the trust of every voter
and constituent in this riding.

Q. You just turned 32 but you've never been one to apologize for your
youth. On the campaign trail, you constantly talked about your
family's long tradition of getting involved in the political realm.
You, yourself, used to head up the Young Liberals and you also served
as campaign manager for the past two Liberal candidates to challenge
Mr. Lemieux. How old were you when you decided politics might be in
your future?

A. My grandfather, Jean-Claude Drouin, was a municipal councillor in
Hawkesbury for 41 years and my father, Yves Drouin, ran in municipal
politics in 1980. He was a councillor at first but then he became
mayor from 1988-1994. He also ran to get the provincial Liberal
nomination against [ former Glengarry- Prescott- Russell MPP] Jean-
Marc Lalonde in 1994. Obviously he lost but in my family, nominations
are kind of like a hockey practice -- once you lose you turn the page
and you start a new chapter. Today, Jean-Marc Lalonde is one of my
mentors. When I was 21, he supported my candidacy to do an internship
in the Premier's office in 2004 and I worked there until 2008. So
politics, to me, is kind of like a virus. It was always in my blood
but I didn't know when it was going to be activated.

Q. Your website describes you as an ardent defender of Liberal values.
How would you define those values and how did you come to embrace them?

A. I agree with Mr. Trudeau regarding the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms in that there won't be any free votes on matters of the
Charter. I think the country has matured enough that we don't need to
fight old battles like the pro-life issue from 1968.

Mr. Trudeau didn't force me to think that way. Most people of my
generation have moved on. To me, that's the type of Liberal values
that we want to bring. But there's much bigger questions we have to
answer right now like, "What type of economy do we want in the
future?" because more and more youth are going to college and
university and are now stuck at mom and dad's because they can't find
a good paying job.

Q. I know there's been talk about mimicking some European models about
providing free education or even reducing tuition but that would
likely be more of a provincial matter.

A. Well, there are measures that we will introduce to help students
get ahead. One of the measures that we talked about is that if
students, once get out of college or university, don't make more than
$25,000 per year then they won't be forced to repay their loans right

Q. After winning the election, your leader, Justin Trudeau, visited
one of Montreal's Metro stations so he could celebrate with his
constituents. How did you celebrate your victory?

A. I was celebrating more my birthday than the victory that night. I
recognize that it's a victory and it hadn't sunk in that night and
it's probably going to take a few weeks to sink in but I am already in
work mode. Right now, the big issue is ensuring that I have
constituency offices open as soon as possible so I can continue
serving constituents.

Q. Throughout this election campaign, the Liberals constantly promised
they would bring real change to Ottawa. What real change would you
most like to see?

A. Ensuring that the middle class thrives in this country. Speaking
more locally, however, I want to tackle unemployment in this riding.
The rate here is 8.7 per cent and that is unacceptable to me when the
national rate is 7.1 per cent.

I also need to talk about agriculture. Supply management has to be
protected but I'm not sure if Canada has a strategy with these free
trade agreements. I want to look closely at it because I find that if
we continue to chip slowly away at our dairy farmers or our chicken
farmers or egg farmers, eventually there won't be a system left.

We're getting away from the farming we used to know and we have to ask
if we want to keep the family farms or if we just want to have bigger
farms like the ones in the States.

Q. What's your stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

A. I always like to look at things before I make a final decision and
the reality is that we haven't had a chance to see the full text of
the TPP.

I'm always going to stand up for farmers and Mr. Trudeau is committed
to discussing the TPP in an open and transparent way. We have to talk
to the groups that are going to be impacted by this.

The more pressing issue is the importation of milk proteins and that
is something I can work on right away and that's something I've spoken
about with dairy farmers.

Q. Some pundits are suggesting that Mr. Trudeau's promise to
decriminalize marijuana may have been a defining factor in his
victory. What are your thoughts on that and what do you think about
legalizing marijuana in Canada?

A. I've had a few people in the riding approach me regarding medical
marijuana but the reality is that Canada has the highest consumption
rate amongst OECD [ Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development] countries amongst the youth population.

So we can choose to do something that we've done over the past 50
years, which has not worked, or we can try a different approach. And
now that some of the States are moving that way, why not? Why not take
it out of criminal hands? Even cops that I've spoken to are tired of
having to fill out a huge report and then send a youth, or somebody
else, through the justice system, which costs Canadian taxpayers half
a billion dollars a year. That type of money could be redirected to
fighting the real crimes like hard drugs and other criminal activity.

But was it a major factor in the election victory? I don't know. I'll
let the pundits worry about that but I think it was smart of Mr.
Trudeau to be honest about [his views] unlike the old-style
politicians who would have kept that hidden until later.

Q. Any thoughts on how it should be controlled?

A. The distribution aspect will be up to the provinces. During the
campaign in Quebec, Mr. Trudeau was asked what sort of model he would
prefer and he said he would prefer not the corner store model like in
Quebec where they sell beer.

We'll set some sort of minimum and deal with the criminal aspect but
obviously there will be some sort of consultation with this and we'll
talk to medical experts and addiction centres.

Our main focus is to reduce the rate of consumption amongst the youth
population. When you buy marijuana from a criminal, he doesn't exactly
ask you if you're 19 or over. The reality was that it's easier to buy
marijuana in the schoolyard than alcohol.

Q. What are the biggest needs in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell?

A. In this riding, the needs are so diverse. The needs of Alexandria
and Hawkesbury are much different than the needs of Cumberland and

The TPP and milk proteins are two major issues when I talk to farmers
but as soon as I get into town, they're not major issues. In Rockland,
the infrastructure needs are more important. In the western part of
the riding, public servants are worried about cuts. I'm dedicated to
defending public servants because if we continue cutting them, it does
two things.

First, if public servants lose their jobs then they can no longer buy
from local entrepreneurs.

The other thing is that we've come to the point where we've cut so
much that the government of Canada can no longer serve its population
correctly. One only has to look at Veteran Affairs. There's a reason
why veterans in this country are not happy and that's because the
previous government cut so much.

Q. Let's switch tacks for a bit. Do you have a favourite

A. My favourite book right now is Out Of Our Minds. He challenges the
education system. That's the type of reading I like to do. I love
science. I've always loved non-fiction books. Q. Movie? A. I'd have to
say Home Alone. Q. TV show? A. Seinfeld. Q. Musical group or artist?
A. It's between the Dave Matthews Band and Johnny Cash.

Q. If someone gave you a million dollars and said you had to give it
all to one charity, who would you choose? A. The United Way. Q. The
Liberals have pledged to explore the realignment of the electoral
system and possibly make changes to the first-past-the-post model in
favour of something closer to representation-by-population. Aren't you
afraid that could condemn us to an eternity of minority

A. Other countries have done it fairly well so I don't see why Canada
can't do it. It's just a matter of changing the culture in Ottawa.

If we get perpetual minority governments, well that's the population
of Canada that is speaking. Politicians have a duty to listen to
Canadian voters.

I think people do want change. I don't know if we should do
representation by population or a ranked ballot but I think it's
important for us to have that conversation.

Q. Mr. Trudeau seems to favour a lesser involvement for Canada's
military in the Middle East - exemplified by his decision to pull out
of the bombing campaign against ISIS. Do you support this decision and
how would you answer challenges that such a decision means that the
Liberals are soft on terrorism?

A. The only ones saying that was the Harper government. I think Canada
was contributing to three per cent of the bombings in Syria and Iraq.
We didn't say we would completely pull out. What we said is we'd
reallocate resources to training more military troops. That makes
sense in the long run because we won't be there forever.

The perfect example is Libya. We bombed in Libya and we got rid of
Gaddafi. In April, we saw 21 people murdered by ISIS in Libya, and we

At the end of the day, I want to see a strategy and that strategy is
to ensure security in the long term. If we train more local troops,
they can defend and ensure security in those countries. If there's
security, then there is no safe haven for terrorists.

We also promise to provide more humanitarian aid. There are huge
refugee camps that need more food and more help.

Q. One of the biggest obstacles hindering growth in North Glengarry is
our lack of water. In Alexandria, building freezes were incorporated
because we lacked the necessary water infrastructure to maintain new
buildings. Maxville, similarly, has been on the well system for years.
Both communities have been trying to improve their water situations
but have been unable to due to cost restraints. Would you, as the new
MP, make addressing these concerns a top priority?

A. Yes. I haven't had chance to sit down with the mayor yet, but I
will. What's important to me is that now, instead of $60 billion in
infrastructure funding over 10 years, we would have, in the new
budget, $125 billion for infrastructure. Part of that includes $20
billion that's dedicated to green infrastructure which includes water
and sewers.

If North Glengarry deems that this is their number one priority, then
my job is to work with them and the provincial government to make sure
we have a project that can get off the ground.

The other issue that I've realized is the lack of access to high-speed
Internet. It's impeding our businesses to grow. In 2015, I think it's
no longer acceptable that businesses don't have access to it. What we
call high-speed out here is not high-speed. If you go to Ottawa,
that's high-speed. At my campaign office, I had to have two Internets.

Q. Speaking of high-speed Internet, Stephen Harper visited Glengarry
in the late summer to announce $ 200 million to improve broadband
Internet and bring high-speed service to more than 350,000 homes.

A. Well what is their definition of high-speed Internet? I've spoken
to a business in Fournier that can't grow because they don't have
access to high-speed. In Hawkesbury, I have 5 Mbps. [ Editor's note:
During Mr. Harper's announcement, he defined high-speed Internet as 5
Mbps because that's the minimum required for teleconferencing.]

Q. Would you still honour the Conservatives' promise to improve
Internet access?

A. For sure. I definitely want to build on that. In 2015, it's
unacceptable that we don't have access to it.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt