QUEBEC’S BUSINESS PREMIER
CHARLES CHRISTOPHER JENKINS
SOME MEN spring into public prominence through a series of
spectacular achievements and their very personalities appear to lend themselves to the picturesque mode of gaining notoriety. Then, again, there are public men who gain their grip on the people without resorting to the strenuous methods that provoke the scream-line headings in the daily newspapers. They seem actually to avoid the spotlight and prefer to win their laurels by steady, consistent effort.
In the latter category is included Hon. Louis Alexandre Taschereau, prime minister of the Province of Quebec.
It is not that Mr. Taschereau is lacking in vigor and combative energy, for the man who seeks the premiership in any of the nine provinces of this Dominion has little chance of gaining his ambition if he cannot first give proof of a fighting spirit. Nor is it outward appearance. L. A. Taschereau is rather distinguished in appearance. But he is decidedly not spectacular. With him it seems to be a matter of m00d—a sort of cloak of inconspicuity that he consciously or unconsciously lets fall about him except in those rare moments when his enthusiasm runs high or his fighting blood is stirred.
Though the premiership of Quebec has seated him in the saddle of past political warriors who found it highly to their advantage to be at times picturesque and spectacular, Taschereau seems intent on holding his popularity as he won it—through sheer elegance and vigor of accomplishment. He won his place in the estimation and affection of the people of Quebec through unrelenting effort intelligently directed—in other words, hard work. At the top of the ladder, so far as provincial politics are concerned, he is still a hard worker.
Lest there be any misconception as to what that term “hard worker” means, let me here set down what I discovered Premier Taschereau essays to wade through before he calls it “a day,” for I found that he, like most others who have won their way to the top, is obsessed, not by a desire for shorter hours of employment in useful effort, but by an almost fretful regret that the period of his working day passes all too quickly to accomplish what should be accomplished. His standard of duty is not measured in a given number of hours but by the bushel-measure of production, so to speak.
No Forty-four Hour Week
'THE PREMIER of Quebec rises about 7.30 o’clock every morning, breakfasts at 8.30 and spends an hour reading some nine or ten leading newspapers of the Dominion. He arrives at his office in the legislative buildings at 9.45 sharp. If the House is not in session and there are no outside calls on his time he can be found there most of the day. He first thoroughly peruses the more important press clippings with reference to Quebec and its Legislature, these being selected by. his secretary from the mass that comes in through the mails. .
Premier Taschereau keeps in close touch with current editorial opinion, not only of his own province, but with that in the leading dailies, financial and agricultural weeklies and magazines from coast to coast in the Dominion. One of the important duties of a branch of his office staff is to locate and mark all articles in newspapers and magazines touching on national subjects. He says that this getting into touch with Dominion-wide events and Dominion-wide opinion every morning keeps him alive to what is going on and very often suggests new ideas.
Callers commence to drop in for appointments with the Premier from 10.30 o’clock onward, and sometimes a large portion of his day is taken up with meeting the people. He remains at his desk till 1.20 o’clock, at which period he leaves for lunch, returning to work at 2.30. It is 6.45 in the evening before he goes to dinner. Daylight’s departure, however, does not end Premier Taschereau’s office hours. “His real work starts in the evening,” a close friend of the premier told me. “He often returns to his office immediately after dinner and is there till late, finding that in the evening hours, with less interruption, he can accomplish much more than he can in the same given time through the day.”
Mr. Taschereau is not a difficult man to meet. His office is quite a democratic place and the “open sesame” to his private sanctum is being able to state a
practical reason for taking up his time. I was dubious about my chances of getting in to see him the morning I walked out on Grande Allée, Quebec City, to the Parliament Buildings, because I had had no opportunity for making an appointment in advance. But his secretary blandly reassured me. “Mr. Taschereau will be pleased to meet you,” he announced after taking in my card and a brief statement of my business. “You will have to wait only a few moments.”
Candidly, I first accepted the secretary’s statement as pure optimism. There were three people ahead of me, one man had just passed into the Premier’s office and another man and a woman were waiting on the seats near the door. “Likely a wait of an hour or more,” I thought to myself. But in fifteen minutes all three callers ahead of me had been in to see the premier and were out again. Five minutes each!
I was ushered into a large square room, which, being at the corner of the building, is favored with daylight from two sides. Its furnishings reflected something elegant yet essentially practical, bright and cheerful. On the walls hung a number of trophies of the premier’s hunting expeditions and in one corner of the room was a large table on which were placed files of current newspapers and magazines. The premier’s desk was located almost in the centre of the
His Personal Appearance
T TK WAS making marginal notes on some sort of A A a document when I walked in. “Business Man” was spelled all over the lithe-looking figure at the desk from the modern cut of his clothes to his slowmoving, capable-looking hands.
There is a certain quiet reserve about Premier Taschereau, not exactly a lack of warmth, but something akin to it that puts him in marked contrast with many of the French-Canadian leaders whose geniality and penchant as “mixers” is one of their large personal assets. His is a self-contained reserve —the dignity and poise of mind of a deep thinker. It makes him a bit inscrutable, but one senses it as the inscrutability of a man preoccupied with and under the pressure of numerous plans for the future.
His eyes are the most striking of his facial features including a scholarly head, rather aesthetic lower face, a square jaw and a straight, full mouth. They are large, expressive eyes out of which glow all the eagerness and enthusiasm of a boy. But Taschereau, with his highly-developed legal mind works along practical lines that leave little opportunity for impulsive speech or action. What he does or says is
invariably first carefully weighed and considered. Before he went
into politics Louis Alexandre Taschereau had earned the name of being one of the most brilliant lawyers in the country.
Evidences are not lacking that he believes in direct action in the open once he has conferred with his cabinet and advisors and has crystallized his plans. When the liquor legislation was brought down in the House a few months ago whereby the Quebec governmental officials were to take over the control and sale of intoxicating liquors in the province, there was much conjecture about the sincerity of the measure. It was quite generally conceded that the Taschereau government would not dare to cancel the privileges of the powerful interests in control of the liquor traffic. The liquor men themselves laughed scornfully at the idea. It was expected that the legislation would be so modified that the private liquor interests would not be driven out of business but merely temporarily suppressed. The proposal to confiscate all liquor held in stock by private dealers after May 1 was too arbitrary to ever come into effect, it was predicted.
Then as time progressed and no modifications were forthcoming the liquor interests began to take things seriously. They sent representatives to see Premier Taschereau. They found the premier adamant. He said their very actions made him realize more than ever that their power should be taken away from them. Then when threats went the rounds as to what would happen any government that attempted to enforce the new legislation, Premier Taschereau put all doubts to flight by his frank announcement in the House. “The Government,” he declared, “is prepared to stand or fall by the success or failure of this liquor legislation.” ,
That declaration and the subsequent vote of the House on the bill settled the matter permanently.
He has all the finished legal man’s penchant for analytical treatment of a given national or provincial situation, and he has certain fixed convictions as to the methods that should bring Canada prosperity in the future. “The economic and financial power of Canada depends upon its industrial and agricultural activities,” he points out. “We can therefore only lighten the burden of our budgets and discharge our foreign debts according as an increased agricultural production, added to a large industrial development, enables us to reduce to value the vast latent resources of our country. The crying need is, how to swell the centres of commerce without fatal depletion of the rural population. In order that a country’s industry may develop securely and permanently, it should be based upon agricultural production sufficient for all the needs of the people and should not drain the rural population from the fields. By thus keeping pace with each other, our industrial and agricultural interests could mutually support one another and flourish without injury to either. It is a fact indeed that the abundance and excellence of agricultural produce often gives rise to the most profitable industrial operations.”
For all his rather reserved and retiring characteristics he is a keen observer and student of human nature. He is quick to perceive the temper of the people, as the following incident during the unveiling of the Cartier monument in Quebec City on the sixth of September, 1920, illustrates. Premier Meighen was present with Premier Taschereau to address the large concourse of people who assembled at the unveiling. The two premiers were pretty much of the same height and build, which fact was the subject of considerable comment as they walked to the platform together. In the audience were two stalwart FrenchCanadians from Montmorency county, both organizers for Premier Taschereau during his political campaigns. While Premier Taschereau was speaking these two men listened attentively and applauded normally. • But he noted that when Premier Meighen opened his address they became quite animated, nudging each other and nodding heads as though some problem had been solved for them. Every once in a while when Premier Meighen would pause the two men would exchange comments of some sort at the same time gesticulating toward the Dominion Premier.
Rather puzzled to know what it was all about, Premier Taschereau approached his two organizers afterwards. “I see something that the Conservative Continued on page 68
Quebec’s Business Premier
Continued from page 20
Premier at Ottawa said made you quite excited,” he suggested.
“No, no,” one of them hastened to inform him. “It wasn’t that. But when Mr. Meighen got up he spoke so fast in English we couldn’t tell what he was saying so we got into a little argument as to whether you or he weighed the more.”
A Lover of the Wilds.
PREMIER TASCHEREAU’s principal * recreation hobbies are big game hunting and fishing. His real vacation is taken in the w'ilds of his native province, where, clothed in mackinaws and high boots, or in moccasins on snow-shoes, he forgets the cares of office in stalking the giant moose and the nimble red deer.
Louis Alexandre Taschereau was born in 1867, the year in which four Canadian provinces were confederated under a central government. He comes of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Canada; a family whose history goes back to colonial days and has contributed five judges to the bench of Canada as well as producing th* Dominion’s first cardinal. His father was Judge Jean-Thomas Tas-
chereau, of the Supreme Court, and his mother was a daughter of a former lieutenant-governor of the province, Hon. R. E. Caron.
Mrs. Taschereau, the premier’s wife, is also descended from an old and famous Quebec family—the Dionne family who were seigneurs and legislative councillors in the province. They have three sons and two daughters. Two of the sons are following in the footsteps cf their sire as barristers-at-law and are identified with his legal firm known as Taschereau, Roy, Cameron, Parent and Taschereau. The other son is a student of civil engineering at Montreal, one daughter is the wife of Captain Cortlandt Fages and the remaining daughter lives with her parents.
In 1889 the man who is now premier of Quebec was admitted to the bar, and as a legal man was first associated with Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, the present Lieutenant-Governor of the province. He first came into national as well as provincial prominence when he acted as counsel in the famous ease of Gaynor anti Greene, pleading for the two Americans who were fighting extradition. He was president of the Quebec province Bar Association ft r the term 1911-12, and entered Provin-
cial politics in 1900, when he was elected member for Montmorency, which seat he has held ever since. He became a cabinet minister in 1907 as Minister of Public Works and Labor, which portfolio he held till 1919, coming into greater political prominence in the framing of Quebec’s Workmen’s Compensation Act. It is claimed that three names stand out among Quebec politicians as law-makers and reformers of standing law. They are those of Sir Hyppolite LaFontaine, Sir George Etienne Cartier and Hon. L. A. Taschereau. The latter was principally instrumental in the reorganization of the judiciary administration of the Province of Quebec. In 1919, he became Attorney-General, a portfolio he has since retained with the premiership.
AT PRESENT Premier Taschereau's one ruling passion is to devise ways and means of promoting Quebec Province to a premier position in industrial and agricultural production and to incite his people to ideals of supremacy along these lines.
Has he higher personal aspirations for which the premiership of his native province might prove to be a steppingstone ? It is the question that naturally assails one after meeting him and discovering how indefatigably he labors in his present high post of honor. At any rate, the great Laurier once predicted that a Taschereau would hold a high place in the national affairs of Canada that would lend lustre to a Canadian family whose forbears had in different generations distinguished themselves.
Does the premiership of all Canada beckon as a goal that might be attained at some opportune time in the future? During the interview, I casually remarked that he had gained the highest honors his native province could bestow on him—possibly he might have Dominion aspirations later, whereat he smiled a bit whimsically.
“To serve one’s country to the best of one’s vigor and ability in the position which the present allots one should be the highest of ambitions,” he re-
I am quite prepared to believe he meant every word of that, for if there is one characteristic more than another about Premier Taschereau which impresses one it is his sincerity.