While it may be hard for anyone who lives west of Atwater to like Pauline Marois’ Parti Québecois, it’s more than easy to like Jean Poirier who is Marois’ candidate in Montreal’s Mercier riding. While taking a well-deserved break from a frenetic amount of door-to-door activity amid the charming little streets which define Montreal’s trendy Plateau, Poirier told The Suburban that he believes in pressing the flesh because “…in the end, that’s the only way people can really get to know you.” And following those first few minutes, those are the same people who will tell you they can really trust a man like Jean Poirier.
As opposed to the lofty ideals about the decades old question that has completely trumped Québec’s political agenda, Poirier is far more concerned about local issues such as decent housing and education- issues that truly matter and which affect the lives of most the people who live in the city’s downtown core.
“I’m just glad to be able to help people out,” he said. “That’s the way I was raised.”
As one of seven brothers raised in Québec’s St. Pierre Baptiste, Poirier made a point of describing what happened to his family after his father was ruined in the economic crisis caused by the steep rise in interest rates that occurred during the previous century’s turbulent ‘eighties.
“That’s when I learned that if you’re poor, you have to learn how to fight”
Even so, family values are at the core of the man’s ideals and he is determined to usthose ideals to help the people who live in the city’s downtown core. He was only 17 when he came to Montreal, but after he finished a technical program with a specialty in aircraft maintenance, he quickly found a job as a maintenance technician for Air Canada.
“Everything was going well until 1997 when they decided to break the company up into little bits and pieces,” said Poirier. “It was just a question of time before they began to sell everything off and that’s when I began to get involved with the union.”
Within a few years, Poirier was a major union executive after which he decided to get into politics “…because that’s where you can make a real difference.”
While he passionately believes in Québec’s essential identity as a French speaking enclave on the edge of a massive English-speaking empire, he also understands the intricate implications of a global economy and what that will mean for the future of Québec. While he believes education must become and remain a priority for the next government, he is also determined to do something to help an older generation who have already done what they could for their children. Following up on his own experience with his two elderly parents who are both being cared for in subsidized care facilities, Poirier said that he is determined to do something to improve housing facilities for the city’s senior citizens.
With only days to go before the next election, Poirier’s efforts to get himself elected are beginning to have an effect upon his major opponent who happens to be none other than Amir Khadir-the leader of Québec Solidaire.
“It’s no longer a race between the PQ and Québec Solidaire,” said Poirier. “At this point, everybody thinks it’s now a race between me and Khadir.”
When asked what he thought about the Le Marcheur incident in which Khadir is reported to have organized a boycott against a local shoe store because a part of their stock included shoes made in Israel, Poirier said that he was nothing less than disgusted to see how a local MNA would go out of his way to destroy a local business in order to pursue his own political agenda. Following a number of protests on the part of the local merchants, the protest moved further south into the next riding where the weekend protest has (up to now) cost two elderly saleswomen their jobs and threatens to ruin a number of stores which happen to be located next to Naot-a Jewish-owned business which has also attracted Khadir’s immediate attention.
“If elected, I will do whatever I can to stop this foolishness,” said Poirier. “It’s not fair and there’s no way I could tolerate this kind of discrimination against honest business people who are working hard to help build this street, this city and this nation.”
While Khadir’s posters seem to be immune from any kind of graffiti or obvious vandalism, over 700 of Poirier’s posters have been torn down or disappeared over the final two weeks of the campaign.
“No matter what happens, said Poirier, “I personally told my staff to leave Khadir’s posters alone. If we win, we’re going to win well and if we win well, it’s because we were the ones who set a good example and that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of this mandate.”