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Parti libéral du Québec
It has traditionally supported Quebec federalism, i.e. Quebec remaining within the Canadian confederation. It has also supported a large role for the government in the economy, although in recent years its economic policies have moved towards neoliberalism. It remains, however, a socially liberal party, which is in line with the Quebec mainstream.
The Liberal Party is descended from:
- the Parti canadien, or Patriotes who supported the 1837 Patriotes Rebellion, and
- les rouges, who fought for responsible government and against the authority of the Catholic Church in Lower Canada.
The most notable figure of this period was Louis-Joseph Papineau.
The Liberal Party has faced different opposing parties in different eras of its history. Its main opposition from the time of Confederation (1867) to the 1930s was the Quebec Conservative Party. That party's successor, the Union Nationale, was the main opposition to the Liberals until the 1970s. In the modern era, the Liberals have alternated in power with the Parti Québécois, a social democratic party that supports the independence of Quebec from Canada. The Liberals have always been associated with the colour red; each of their three main opponents in different eras have been associated with the colour blue.
The Liberals were in opposition to the ruling Conservatives for most of the first 20 years after Confederation, except for 18 months of Liberal minority government in 1878-1879. However, the situation changed in 1885 when the federal Conservative government executed Louis Riel, the leader of the French-speaking Métis (mixed race) people of western Canada. This decision was very unpopular in Quebec. Honoré Mercier rode this wave of discontent to power in 1887, but was brought down by a scandal in 1891. He was later cleared of all charges. The Conservatives returned to power until 1897.
The Liberals won the 1897 election, and held power without interruption for the next 39 years; the Conservatives never held power in Quebec again. This mirrored the situation in Ottawa, where the arrival of Wilfrid Laurier in the 1896 federal election marked the beginning of Liberal dominance at the federal level. Notable long-serving Premiers of Quebec in this era were Lomer Gouin and Louis-Alexandre Taschereau.
By 1935, however, the Conservatives had an ambitious new leader, Maurice Duplessis. Duplessis merged his party with dissident ex-Liberals who had formed the Action libérale nationale. Duplessis led the new party, the Union Nationale (UN), to power in the 1936 election. The Liberals returned to power in the 1939 election, but lost it again in the 1944 election. They remained in opposition to the Union Nationale until one year after Duplessis's death in 1959.
Post-1960 and the modern era
Under Jean Lesage, the party won an historic election in 1960, ending sixteen years of rule by the conservative Union Nationale. This marks the beginning of the Quiet Revolution, which dramatically changed Quebec society. Under the slogan maîtres chez nous (masters in our own house), the Quebec government undertook several major initiatives, including:
- full nationalization of the electricity industry through expansion of the government-owned Hydro Quebec -- this major initiative of the government was led by the minister of natural resources, René Lévesque;
- creation of a public pension plan, the Quebec Pension Plan , separate from the Canada Pension Plan that exists in all other provinces of Canada;
- creation of a Ministry of Education, taking responsibility for the schools away from the Roman Catholic Church;
- pressuring the federal government of Canada to renegotiate federal-provincial relations.
Under Lesage, the Liberals developed Quebec nationalist and federalist wings. Some Liberals, including senior Cabinet minister René Lévesque, left the Liberals to join the sovereignty movement, participating in the founding of the Parti Quebecois under Levesque's leadership.
Relations soured between the Quebec Liberal Party and the federal Liberal Party of Canada under Lesage, and particularly under Robert Bourassa. In 1962, the PLQ severed its affiliation with the Liberal Party of Canada, and, at times since then, relations between the two parties have been strained.
As Premier, Bourassa instituted Bill 22 to protect the role of the French language in Quebec, and pushed Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau for constitutional concessions. His government was also embarrassed by several scandals. Bourassa resigned from the party's leadership after the loss of the 1976 Quebec election to René Lévesque's Parti Québécois.
Bourassa was succeeded as Liberal leader by Claude Ryan, the former of the respected Montreal newspaper, Le Devoir. Ryan led the successful federalist campaign in the 1980 Quebec referendum on Quebec sovereignty, but then lost the 1981 Quebec election. He resigned as Liberal leader some time later, paving the way for the return of Robert Bourassa.
When Bourassa returned as Premier in the 1980s, he successfully persuaded the federal Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney to recognize Quebec as a distinct society, and sought greater powers for the province. This resulted in the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords. Both of these proposals, however, were defeated. While a Quebec nationalist, Bourassa remained an opponent of independence for Quebec.
In 1994, after the failure of the Charlottetown Accord, nationalist members of the Liberal party led by Jean Allaire and Mario Dumont, including many from the party's youth wing, left to form the Action démocratique du Québec because of the Liberal party's refusal to endorse independence. As in 1980, the PLQ campaigned for a non vote in the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty.
Since the election of April 14, 2003, the Liberals have formed the current government of Quebec under Premier Jean Charest. Charest is a former federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and leader. Under the leadership of Charest, the Liberals have moved to the right as former supporters of the federal Conservatives during the Brian Mulroney years gain prominent positions in the Liberal party under Charest's leadership. The current Liberal government has proposed a policy of reform of social programs and cuts to government spending and the civil service similar to those of recent Progressive Conservative governments in Ontario and Alberta.
Leaders of the Parti Libéral du Québec
- Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière (1867-1883) (premier 1878-1879)
- Honoré Mercier (1883-1892) (premier 1887-1891)
- Félix-Gabriel Marchand (1892-1900) (premier 1897-1900)
- Simon-Napoléon Parent (1900-1905) (premier 1900-1905)
- Lomer Gouin (1905-1920) (premier 1905-1920)
- Louis-Alexandre Taschereau (1920-1936) (premier 1920-1936)
- Adélard Godbout (1936-1950) (premier 1936, 1939-1944)
- Georges-Émile Lapalme (1950-1958)
- Jean Lesage (1958-1970) (premier 1960-1966)
- Robert Bourassa (1970-1976) (premier 1970-1976)
- Gérard D. Lévesque (interim) (1976-1978)
- Claude Ryan (1978-1982)
- Gérard D. Lévesque (interim) (1982-1983)
- Robert Bourassa (1983-1994) (premier 1985-1994)
- Daniel Johnson, Jr. (1994-1998) (premier 1994)
- Jean Charest (1998-) (premier 2003-)
Election results (since 1970)
|General election||# of candidates||# of seats won||% of popular vote|
- Contributions to liberal theory
- Liberalism worldwide
- List of liberal parties
- Liberal democracy
- Politics of Quebec
- List of Quebec general elections
- List of Quebec premiers
- List of Quebec leaders of the Opposition
- National Assembly of Quebec
- Timeline of Quebec history
- Political parties in Quebec
- National Assembly historical information
- Parti libéral du Québec website
- La Politique québécoise sur le Web
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