St. Thomas University graduate Denis Boulet has been appointed deputy leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick.
The labour and environmental activist will work closely with Fredericton South MLA and party leader David Coon heading into the 2018 provincial election. Boulet’s job includes organizing and recruiting candidates, particularly in northern francophone ridings, and representing the party in French language media.
The 28-year-old is also a candidate in the riding of Madawaska les Lacs-Edmundston, the first-ever candidate in the riding’s history.
The party announced the news Jan. 16, but Boulet first heard of his promotion while attending the St. Thomas Winter Gala in December. He received a text from Coon asking if they could talk over the phone.
Less than a full month after declaring his candidacy, Boulet was told he would be serving alongside Marilyn Merritt-Gray as a deputy leader.
“Marilyn and Denis are strong leaders, who will bring important perspectives from rural and small town New Brunswick, as we prepare for the 2018 election,” Coon said in a news release.
“It’s very important to me to have a youth and woman’s perspective, representing both our linguistic communities, integrated into the leadership of our party.”
Boulet’s path to working in politics is unconventional.
The young francophone is from Connors, a small logging community tucked into the Madawaska panhandle where Quebec and Maine meet New Brunswick, where he works on his family’s Christmas tree farm.
He said the natural beauty of the region helped inspire his involvement in environmental activism.
“There’s everything here: fresh water, fresh air, and to me, it’s everything. I want to protect it,” Boulet said.
“I want to be a defender of this land.”
After graduating from high school, he decided to do something different than all his friends, who went off to study in Quebec or at Université de Moncton. He ended up at St. Thomas in 2009.
Boulet described his university education as “greatly influential” in his political involvement, despite his road from start to finish being quite unorthodox.
He dropped out after his first semester, returned in the fall of 2012 and dropped out again in 2014 before returning to finish his history degree with an economics minor in 2016. He graduated last semester.
He became involved in the Green Party when concerns were brought up in his region over pollution and air quality from waste management at industrial chicken plants.
“The liberal arts that we learn at St. Thomas are stale unless we apply them to world,” he said.
“If we don’t act, who will? And if it’s not now, when?”
Toward the end of his degree, Boulet read the Green Party platform, realized he strongly agreed with it and decided to run for office.
Due to the lack of representation in his riding, he was unfamiliar with the Green Party growing up.
Boulet is well-known in his region, where he has actively volunteered in museum and heritage work, and insists he’s in it to win it.
“But, I’ll win even if I lose,” he said.
“It has to start somewhere. It might as well be here and now.”
Clarification: For clarity, the following sentence was changed from “Due to the lack of representation in his riding, he was unfamiliar with politics growing up” to “Due to the lack of representation in his riding, he was unfamiliar with the Green Party growing up.”