News  McGill grad student runs for city council

Taking on mayor's Party in by-election

Bryce Durafourt, in the last year of his Masters program in Neuroscience at McGill, is Projet Montréal’s newest candidate for city councillor in St. Laurent’s Côte-de-Liesse district.

With the deadline for declaring candidacy set for October 22, his only opponent thus far in the by-election is Francesco Miele, from Gerard Tremblay’s Union Montréal party. The campaign began last Friday, and election day is November 21.

Durafourt is running for a position that had been held by Laval Demers, who died on September 16 of a brain aneurysm. He was 57 years old.

The 23-year-old Durafourt is a veteran in municipal politics, having contested his first election in the St. Laurent borough when he was 18. This will be his fourth campaign for municipal office – he ran twice for councillor and once for school board representative.

Durafourt, who received his Bachelor’s in Microbiology and Immunology from McGill in 2009, thinks his chances of winning are “very good.”

“It’s always tough,” he told The Daily. “Tremblay’s party has had five councillors elected in the borough.” There are five seats on the St. Laurent council.

Durafourt, who has deferred his acceptance to McGill medical school until next year so he can finish his Master’s degree, thinks the St. Laurent council could use a breath of fresh air.

“Since council is made up by five people from the same team it’s important to have some opposition…so that new ideas can be brought in,” he said.

“They’re pretty excited to see someone young,” he said of the constituents he met going door-to -door getting signatures in support of his candidacy.

Durafourt’s past campaigns have not garnered as much enthusiasm. In every one of his previous races he lacked serious political endorsement, and ran as an independent. In 2005, in an election for councillor, he received just over one per cent of the vote. “It was a tough campaign,” he said. “But I used the lessons I learned then when I ran again in 2009. I ran a much bigger campaign. I used full-sized signs.”

In 2009, he received about six per cent of the vote. Durafourt found that “it’s very difficult to get elected without the financial and organizational backing of a party,” as the Gazette put it in a profile of the young politician in 2007.

Durafourt has cleared that hurdle this time around. Projet Montréal approached Durafourt about running this year, and is throwing its full weight behind him.

He shares many of Projet’s policy goals, like expanded public transit, reduced car traffic, and air-conditioning in the metro. Although hesitant to criticize the mayor’s election platform, Durafourt pointed to continued “collusion in city contracts” as a failure of Tremblay’s tenure as mayor, which began in 2001. Durafourt felt that the problem “maybe didn’t originate from Tremblay and his team,” but that it “certainly hadn’t been well addressed in [Tremblay’s] first two terms.”

Durafourt’s research work at McGill, meanwhile, seems unimpeachable. He is part of a team looking into the effects of a new drug to combat Multiple Sclerosis, which “was on clinical trials and…was just approved in the U.S.”

He chose MS research because MS is “an issue that’s close to me for family reasons…that’s meaningful to me.”

Next year Durafourt will be attending medical school at McGill, but he is confident he will be able to balance his academic and political life.

“It’s not quite a full-time job,” he said of being a councillor. “I would be obligated to go to St. Laurent council meeting, which is once a month, and Montreal council meeting, which is once a month as well. The rest of the work is meeting with citizens and then performing whatever tasks need to be done.”

“You’re elected to work for the City of Montreal,” he continued, “but you’re working for the people, you’re working for the citizens.”