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Hardcover Rene Levesque Book

ISBN: 0670069191

ISBN13: 9780670069194

Rene Levesque

(Part of the Extraordinary Canadians Series)

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

He was the most unlikely leader: straightforward, uninterested in personal wealth, unprepossessing. Yet his charisma affected even those who disliked his political aim to achieve independence for Quebec. Rene Levesque was born into a Quebec dominated by the Catholic Church, rural values, and Anglophone control of business. He was part of the 1960s Quiet Revolution that saw the province become a secular society bent on economic success and, for some,...

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An extraordinary man

This monograph about René Lévesque is part of a Penguin series called Extraordinary Canadians. The only surprise, and it is momentary, is to find Lévesque included in this list, but he was a Canadian, and he was extraordinary. René Lévesque, who with a small group of followers founded the Parti Québecois (PQ) in the late 1960s and led it to great heights, was born in Campbellton, New Brunswick. This is interesting since New Brunswick has a high Francophone population and is to this day the only province in Canada that has two official languages, English and French. René grew up in the province of Québec, in a town settled by United Empire Loyalists called New Carlisle in the Gaspe Peninsula. As fate would have it, during much of his childhood he had to attend school in English, and this meant that the leader of a separatist party actually spoke much better English than many mainstream Québec politicians such as the Liberals. After the death in September, 1959 of longtime premier and strong man, Maurice Duplessis, who had wielded patriarchal power under the Union Nationale banner (a right-wing party established in 1935), the provincial Liberals, to which Lévesque had first belonged, became the party to beat. Lévesque's new party, which rather than advocating outright secession espoused a sovereignty association, did not become a force overnight, but they made steady inroads and were finally elected in 1976. This was quite a feat after the revolutionary Québec Liberation Front (FLQ) had inflicted violence and tragedy on prominent people as well as innocent bystanders. In the name of separatism, the FLQ kidnapped James Cross, British trade commissioner in Montreal, who was eventually released, and then the FLQ kidnapped Quebec Liberal Cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, who was not so lucky and died while in their hands. The year before,in 1969, the FLQ bombed the Montreal Stock Exchange, killing a couple of people, and inflicted other apparently random deeds in the name of their somewhat unfocused goals. The FLQ had seen the success (after a long hard struggle) of the Algerians in achieving independence from France, and they chose to go down a similar road. The leader of the PQ, himself a former Liberal Cabinet minister under Jean Lesage, who always felt he was a democrat first and foremost was bent on reform and not revolution. When his party was elected, Lévesque would provide a check on the more extreme elements of his party. And, in the beginning, the party was squeaky clean and became the model for fiscal accountability (especially in regard to electoral donations) as well as the public acquisition of Hydro Québec, the electric company, which turned out to be a great investment for the Québec taxpayer. In their enthusiasm to take over all the resources, the PQ were less fortunate with their stubborn acquisition of the asbestos industry. They had failed to see the writing on the wall about this soon-to-be banned product. But they
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