When Saint-Anicet native Charles Gascon joined Salaberry-Suroît MP Claude DeBellefeuille’s team as a political attaché in October 2019, he was not expecting such a sharp learning curve. “Our mandate started in the fall with two railway crises that had a direct impact on farmers and local industries,” he says. “Then came the pandemic.”
Gascon’s involvement with the DeBellefeuille team began at the age of 16, when he became an official card-carrying member of the Bloc Québécois. He worked as a volunteer for her campaign during the 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections, earning more responsibility each time. He didn’t hesitate when DeBellefeuille asked him to officially join her team.
As a political attaché, his role is to advise DeBellefeuille on a wide range of issues. Given her role as party whip, the majority of his work takes place in Ottawa. “I make sure caucus members excel in their role as MPs,” he explains. “It’s a very stimulating job as there is no such thing as a routine.”
Gascon is also responsible for maintaining contact with partners in the region, preparing policy briefs, and writing press releases as well as speeches to be delivered by DeBellefeuille in the House. “I am, along with the other members of the team, her right-hand man.”
Having grown up on the family farm in Saint-Anicet, Gascon was an active member of the local 4-H club. In fact, the first time he met DeBellefeuille was at a 4-H citizenship seminar in Ottawa, several years before he took out his party membership. “When I arrived at Parliament, I wasn’t wearing a jacket, so her political attaché lent me his,” he recalls. “Madame DeBellefeuille knew everyone from all the parties. I spoke with the minister of agriculture at the time. We ended the evening with Peter Milliken, the former speaker of the house,” he says, noting that this first encounter inspired his interest in politics.
His involvement with the 4-H club eventually reached the pan-Canadian level. “When it comes to meeting procedures, managing a budget or volunteers and setting goals, I learned all of this from 4-H,” he says, when asked whether his membership in the club and background in agriculture have helped prepare him for this job. “Otherwise, I embody the motto ‘Learn to do by doing’ every day,” he reflects. “Especially in the context of a pandemic!”
His time in 4-H also helped him to reinforce his convictions. “I lived with three families out west as a teenager. I immediately realized that my country is Quebec,” he explains, noting this was rooted not only in language, but also in the way the future is envisioned. “I really solidified this feeling that Quebec has legitimate reasons to shape its own future. For me, it just makes sense for Quebec to become its own country. And my Canadian friends will remain my friends.”
For Gascon, having such firmly cemented beliefs has also contributed to his ability to do his job, which revolves around ensuring that Quebec voices are heard at the federal level.
“On the one hand, it is a dream come true and, on the other hand, it is a great privilege to hold this position,” he says. “I really feel that I am contributing in my own way to the well-being of our community.”