GENERAL ARTICLES

This Is Raymond

BLAIR FRASER January 1 1944
GENERAL ARTICLES

This Is Raymond

BLAIR FRASER January 1 1944

This Is Raymond

GENERAL ARTICLES

BLAIR FRASER

MAXIME RAYMOND is an honest man In these days of political mudslinging when every man's opponent is represented

to him as a blackguard, it is important that English Canadians seize and digest that cardinal fact about the leader of Le Bloc Populaire, the arch anticonseriptionist, the French-Canadian Nationalist and the heir of Henri Bourassa. Any estimate or picture of Raymond that fails to take account of his honesty is a false one, and leads to a misjudgment of both him and his Party.

Raymond is honest then. He is also fearless. He cannot be bullied, frightened, bought or subtly suborned. But neither and here is the catch can he be convinced. Ho thinks what he thinks, and from that position he can be neither corrupted nor persuaded. For all his gentle courtesy and seeming reasonableness, he is almost as impervious to argument as he is to bribery.

Here’s an incident which is entirely trivial, but it seemed to me typical.

When this article and the quiz which accompanies it were in preparation, we wanted to get a picture of Mr. Raymond at work. A photographer came up to the house but Mr. Raymond said no, he didn’t want any picture taken, we would have to use the last one taken publicly. His daughters protested vigorously that picture was effrayante; it was épouvantable terrible. Mr. Raymond beamed at them gently.

“You see,” he said to me, “I am a slave of my family.”

I thought this meant he had capitulated. “Shall we take a picture then?”

Mr. Raymond was astonished. “Oh no, not at all,” he said. “I have decided definitely no more pictures.”

That is the sort of mild but utter intransigeance which has exasperated the Liberal Party for the last 17 years.

Maxime Raymond is a lawyer, a King’s Counsel, son of a Quebec family very prominent both socially and politically. He is a brother of Senator Donat Raymond, one of Liberalism’s staunchest; supporters and counsellors in Quebec, a power in the inner Party circles. In his earlier years Maxime, however, showed little interest in politics. He graduated in law, at Laval, the same year as Hon. P.-J. A. Cardin, the great Lapointe’s lieutenant; but while Cardin was fighting conscription, under Laurier, Raymond was practicing law.

In 1925 the Liberals asked him to contest Beauharnois. He refused. They insisted. For once

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he changed his mind—he agreed on condition they would let him finance his own campaign, and be completely independent of Party obligations. Not knowing what they did, the Liberals said okay.

Raymond has sat for Beauharnois (now Beauharnois - Laprairie) ever since. He has never accepted any Party funds, or even Party speakers. He pays his own way, as he is financially able to do, and invites friends out to stump for him at the relatively few personal campaign meetings he holds.

For 11 years after he entered politics Raymond was a fairly docile Liberal. He voted against the Party on occasion, when he thought it was not being logical, but on the whole he was a steady supporter until 1937. That was the year the rearmament program began.

Maxime Raymond’s deepest conviction as n public man is his opposition to Canada’s participation in European wars. It is not pacifism—he would fight for some things—but he thinks we have no part in Europe’s quarrels. He spoke and voted against the Defense estimates of 1937, and all thereafter. In September, 1939, he spoke vigorously against the declaration of war, and the only reason he did not vote against it was that no vote was taken. He regards this as a bit of sharp practice. He was in his room when the debate ended, and before he could get down to the Commons chamber the war declaration had gone through, without a recorded vote, over the protest of the late J. S. Woodsworth, CCF leader.

Continuing to speak and vote against war measures, Raymond nevertheless remained a Liberal for the next three years. There were about a dozen like him, mavericks of whom the bestknown is Jean-François Pouliot of Temiscouata.

Quebec Votes “No”

It was the plebiscite of 1942 that detached Raymond and his followers from the Liberal Party. The “No” vote in Quebec, and the Ligue pour la Defense du Canada, which had promoted it, seemed to make the nucleus of a new Party. There were plenty of lieutenants, hut no unifying leader— years of internecine strife had made it impossible for these men to serve under one of their own number. Raymond had no political past in this sense, so he was chosen.

Sometime in the summer of 1942 several deputations went to see him. Among them were Rene Chaloult, firebrand member of the Quebec Legislative Assembly, who had just been tried and acquitted on a sedition charge; Paul Gouin, leader of the defunct Action Liberale Nationale, which in 1935 had led the revolt against

the old Taschereau regime but in 1936 had been efficiently knifed by its ally, Maurice Duplessis; Dr. Philippe Hamel, Quebec City dentist, who became a politician to express his hatred of the “power trust,” and Jean Martineau, Montreal lawyer, son of a leading Liberal family, one of Paul tlouin’s stoutest lieutenants in the Action Nationale and one of the few who stayed with Gouin to the end. They asked Raymond to lead a new Party, born of the conscription issue. Raymond, after some consideration, agreed. Le Bloc Populaire Canadien was formed in September.

It got off to a rather bad start. By-elections came in Montreal-Outremont and Charlevoix-Saguenay, the latter a down-river rural constituency which the Casgrain family had held in fief for years. Raymond decided to contest neither election. In CharlevoixSaguenay an ex-Conservative won, running of course on an anticonscription ticket; in Outremont a “candidate of the conscripts” named Jean Drapeau, politically unheard-of and running only under the aegis of the mushroom Ligue pour la Defense du Canada, garnered most of the FrenchCanadian votes, and was defeated only because Major General L. R. LaFleche had the solid support of the English. Le Bloc gained no prestige from either of these antiwar demonstrations.

Then came the opening of the 1943 session of Parliament. Raymond had hoped and expected to take a majority of the “maverick” Liberals across the floor with him—not Pouliot, with whom he has never got along too well, but most of the others. Only two came, and by no means the best two at that. Edouard Lacroix, M.P. for Beauce, is a lumber tycoon who controls his own riding but has no popularity outside it. Dr. Pierre Gauthier, Portneuf, has never ranked as a heavyweight. These are the whole of the Bloc’s parliamentary rank and file.

Worse was to follow. In February, when he had made only one speech in the House for his Party, Maxime Raymond fell seriously ill. He

remained hors de combat throughout the session, and there were weeks when his life was despaired of. He is still not a well man.

Liberal Is Beaten

Despite these handicaps Le Bloc entered the Federal by-elections of Aug. 9 and did pretty well. In the semirural constituency of Stanstead, though the population is strongly mixed with English, they scored a decisive victory over the Liberal candidate. In Cartier, the Jewish seat, they came within 150 votes of victory, and their vote indicated almost 100% support from the French Canadians in the riding. A Communist won the seat, and the Liberal took a bad beating— only the presence of a hopeful “independent” saved him from the ignominy of running last.

However, these were highly special cases. In Stanstead the Liberal was the candidate whose unseating, on a charge of corrupt practices by his agents, was the cause of the by-election. He had been unseated as a result of bitter factional warfare within the Liberal camp at Stanstead. In Cartier Le Bloc’s man was the only French Canadian running, and he conducted a campaign full of appeals to race prejudice and anti-Semitism.

Since then Le Bloc has had another setback. Rene Chaloult, its sole spokesman in the Quebec Legislature,

Paul Gouin and Dr. Hamel have all dropped out—not from Le Bloc itself, but from all activity therein, because they object to the prominence of Edouard Lacroix in the Party councils. It will be recalled that these are three of the four men who besought Raymond to form Le Bloc in the first place. The fourth of this group, Jean Martineau, agrees with his friends in their opinion of Lacroix but not in their tactics of withdrawing into the wilderness.

Declares For Lacroix

On Nov. 30, in a formal statement to the Press, Raymond put himself definitely in the Lacroix Camp. He named no names, but the statement was a stinging rebuke to “those who have publicly cast doubt on my sagacity, if not my sincerity”—an obvious reference to Hamel’s radio speech of a few weeks before.

Incidehtally this statement of Nov30 showed what a dictatorial tendency is concealed beneath Raymond’s courtly manner. It was phrased Ducestyle: “I cannot tolerate anyone

casting doubt on the sincerity or the sagacity of the chief himself. I have been since the start, and I still am, the sole chief of Le Bloc Populaire Canadien. I have announced a program. That program will be realized in its entirety.” And after a few more sentences in like vein, Raymond ended with a peremptory command to the dissidents to “re-enter the ranks if they do not wish to be considered adversaries of the Bloc.”

This factional strife is due mainly to two causes. First, the Bloc like most parties has a Right and a Left wing. Lacroix is the archtype of the Right— his enemies call him “trustard.” Chaloult, Gouin and Hamel are the Left.

Raymond himself, by the way, is regarded as a middle-of-the-road man who started out as a straight Bourassa Nationalist, but has moved Leftward as he grasped more and more the economic plight of his people.

The other cause of factional strife within the Bloc is the temperament of its leaders. They are all prima donnas. All have left some Party or other for a question of principle, and all are as thin-skinned as a shelled egg. Any minute one or more of them is likely to put on his hat and walk out over some issue that looks trivial to others, but all-important to him. Also, personal rancors are deep and manysided, in this as in all Quebec political movements.

Right now the Bloc appears to be badly split, with Chaloult and Gouin sulking in their tents, Raymond sick, the unpopular Lacroix still organizing, and all the while Maurice Duplessis and his Union Nationale burning up the province with a red-hot political campaign of mudslinging, race prejudice and yelps for “autonomy.” However, the split may not be as deep as it seems. Observers point out that no one has followed Chaloult and Gouin— many have sympathized with them, but remain in Le Bloc. Also, the personal leadership of Maxime Raymond is still acknowledged by all, and his health is reaching the point where he can resume active direction.

It is hard for him. He is 60 years old, and has been gravely ill. Many people think he would retire now if he could name his own successor.

If Raymond could name his successor today, most people think it would be neither Chaloult nor Lacroix nor any

of the well-known names, but a young Montrealer named Andre Laurendeau. Laurendeau is a man to watch in Quebec politics. A fanatic Nationalist, a rabble-rousing speaker, yet a cool, calculating mind, he is already a power in his own Party, of which he is secretary. Laurendeau is particularly effective on the radio. On the platform he is handicapped by slight build and excessively youthful appearance—he is in his early thirties, but looks even younger. On. the radio his good voice and powerful command of French have unimpeded effect.

Bu^,. Raymond knows he cannot name Laurendeau or anyone else as successor. He knows his own retirement would result in a scramble for the leadership, so he carries on. His doctor recently gave him permission to work as much as three hours a day, so Raymond gratefully tries not to work more than six hours. He doesn’t often succeed though.

His health Ls one of the big question marks on the Bloc Populaire’s future. Another is Maurice Duplessis, who is handicapped by his political record but who is a smart politician and right now vas busy as a beaver—unless Le Bloc fetarts to move pretty soon it will be leftat the post.

Duplessis’ ambitions are purely provincial and last summer he tried to make a deal with Le Bloc to leave the Provincial field to his Union Nationale, the Federal to Raymond and his men. Le Bloc refused—would have no truck or trade with a politician of the Duplessis stripe. Rumor now hints that Duplessis may turn to P. J. A. Cardin, in the wilderness since he bolted the Federal Cabinet on the conscription issue but still a power in his native province, and give Cardin the Union Nationale’s machine for Federal use. Whether true or not the notion is plausible.

Then, too, the Liberals might come back. Their stock is low just now, but they’re making a good fight. Not to be overlooked in this connection is the English vote in Quebec, which is rather more widely distributed than everyone realizes, and which will be solidly behind Premier Adelard Godbout. With the Nationalist vote split, this may be important.

So Le Bloc’s future is anyone’s guess. Only one thing is certain; Le Bloc is no joke. It sprang from a real impulse in the French-Canadian people, and its leaders are not time servers or traitors but, in the main, honest and fanatical patriots.

From the point of view of Canadian unity, this, of course, makes them all the more dangerous. As Bernard Shaw remarked in the preface to Saint Joan: “It is what men and women do at their best, with good intentions, and what normal men and women find that they must and will do in spite of their intentions, that really concern us.” Le Bloc would split Canada, and it is no comfort that its leader cannot be bribed, scared or otherwise corrupted in that course.

But until English Canadians recognize this fact, and stop thinking of French-Canadian Nationalists as in some way criminal and personally evil, misunderstanding will be endemic and inevitable in this country. If we cannot win these men—-and I don’t think we can—we must defeat them, but we shall never defeat them among their own people by vilifying them. So I end where I started. Maxime Raymond is an honest man.