QUEBEC’S NEW POWER ELITE
They’re the behind-the-scenes architects of the Quiet Revolution. They shun politics, avoid speeches, and are largely unknown in the province they’re shaping
BELOW THE POLITICAL surface of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution is a small group of men who seldom make speeches or appear in public, are wholly unknown to English Canadians — and known to few even of their fellow Québécois. Yet they, even more than the politicians they serve, are the architects of the New Quebec — the men who have fashioned its structure and given it both its shape and its motive power.
All of them are proud to be known as intellectuals, They are highly educated. At least two thirds of them arc former university professors (some still are, part time) and all have postgraduate degrees of some sort, most often in economics or social science. Several, oddly enough, have had experience as federal civil servants in Ottawa. (Of one such, his friends say facetiously, “Ottawa turned him into a separatist.”) In fact, none is a separatist by any sensible definition — not yet, anyway — but most if not all are strong French-Canadian nationalists, determined to win for Quebec the very maximum of autonomy within Canada.
Their number varies, and is hard to define precisely at any time. These men are not all one circle, nor even a set of concentric circles, but rather a loose chain of interlocking, overlapping rings like the Olympic Games’ symbol. All revolve around Premier Jean Lesage and draw their power from him, either directly or through one of his ministers, yet paradoxically they are not political in any sense. None has ever taken any part in politics, nor does any feel any party connection or loyalty now.
“If the government were to be defeated three months from now, most of us would stay on the job,” said one, “and some at least would quickly become part of the in-group under the new regime.” (Whether a Union Nationale government would agree to this companionable arrangement is another matter.)
The influence of each, group, and of each man
within the group, fluctuates with time and circum-\ stance (“It’s a yo-yo game,” one of them said wryly), ; but any current list would have to include at least! the following:
CLAUDE MORIN, deputy minister of federal-provincial affairs, and best known of the Lesage brain trust because he is the man who normally accompanies Lesage on any mission outside the province. Until very recently he was also economic adviser to the premier. I
JACQUES PARIZEAU, a young professor of economics at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, University of Montreal, is expected to be appointed to take over the economic half of Morin’s job. He has been working for the Quebec government part time for over a year, doing a brilliant job preparing economic studies for various departments,'1 and is currently engaged in analyzing the tax structures of the province and of Canada.
JACQUES PREMONT, the new clerk of the executive council, succeeded in that office a man who retired after a lifetime of service in the old grooves of government. Prémont, who is thirty - eight and a graduate in law of Oxford, will make it a different: sort of job. It is already evident that Premier Lesage intends to make him the sort of key man in policymaking that Gordon Robertson, clerk of the privy council, and his predecessor, R. B. Bryce, have been in Ottawa.
JEAN FOURNIER, chairman of the Quebec Civil Service Commission, came to Quebec eighteen months ago after twenty years in the federal civil service. He’d been with the department of external affairs, which he joined after first graduating in law, then spending five years in the army. His job has been the elimination of political patronage and the introduction of modern standards of classification’ and pay in Quebec.
ROCH ROLDUC works with Jean Fournier in the Civil Service Commission, where he was in charge
of planning but has just been appointed a member of the commission itself. Alone among the key men of the new Quebec regime, Bolduc is a survivor of the Duplessis years: he’s been in the Quebec government service ever since he finished a postgraduate course at the University of Chicago in 1954. But he was also a part-time professor at the University of Montreal in the 1950s (he had to have a second job, to earn enough to live on) and thereby came to know the other young men of the new regime. Since he also knew everyone of any importance in the old Quebec civil service, his range of contacts in the provincial government is unique, and his influence goes far beyond his nominal position.
JEAN DESCHAMPS, deputy minister of industry and commerce, also has a unique range of contacts
— in his case, among business and academic circles. Professor of business administration at the University of Montreal’s School of Higher Commercial Studies, he used to organize seminars for business executives, and he was also a businessman himself
— director of half a dozen corporations, and majority shareholder in a merchandising firm he built up from scratch in the small town where he was born. He is very close to his minister, ex-businessman Gérard Lévesque, who in turn is very close to Premier Jean Lesage.
ARTHUR TREMBLAY, deputy minister of education, has been the draftsman of the most important single change enacted by the Lesage government, the new and secularized school system which was sold to the legislature and the people of Quebec by the young and brilliant minister of education, Paul GérinLajoie. Professor of education at Laval for twenty years, Tremblay was one of the first of the academics to be called into the Lesage government’s service, and though his work has been confined to his own department, its importance has been immense.
ROGER MARIER, deputy minister of family and social welfare, is another who sticks to his own de-
partment, but whose work nevertheless permeates a large fraction of the new government’s activity. Like Arthur Tremblay, he was one of the first students to enroll in Laval’s School of Social Sciences under the famous Father Lévesque, the dynamic Dominican who is the real father of the Quebec revolution.
ANDRE MARIER, Roger’s younger brother, is an angry young man whose friends describe him as having “separatist tendencies.” Roger, forty - nine, and André, thirty-three, are respectively the eldest and the youngest in a family of eleven. Both formerly worked in Ottawa for Central Mortgage And Housing Corporation, the Crown company that runs the federal housing program. André Marier is an economist whose hobby is proving, to anyone who will listen, that an independent Quebec would be economically viable. He works in René Lévesque’s department of resources under . . .
MICHEL BELANGER, assistant deputy minister, who is generally regarded as the most brilliant of all the bright young men in the Lesage government’s brain trust. Now thirty-six, he is another graduate of Father Lévesque’s social-science school and also of McGill, after which he worked for the federal government in Ottawa for six years, mostly with the Treasury Board but also on the staff of the Borden Commission on energy resources. Michel Bélanger was responsible for most of the technical work on the expansion of Hydro Quebec in 1962, the new Quebec Mining Act, and the establishment of the new steel manufacturing complex known as SIDBEC.
MARCEL BELANGER, no relation to Michel, is not a full - time member of the Quebec government service at all, but as fiscal adviser to Premier Jean Lesage he has great influence. Marcel Bélanger is chairman of the Quebec royal commission on taxation, which is expected to report this autumn. Both a professor in Laval’s School of Commerce and the head of a private firm of consulting accountants, he
has something of the same relationship with the Lesage government that Walter Gordon, before he went into active politics, had with the St. Laurent government in Ottawa.
LOUIS-PHILIPPE PIGEON, QC. is another adviser who has never formally joined the government service; nominally, he is still a lawyer in private practice, though the Quebec government is almost his only client, and he has an office just down the corridor from Premier Lesage’s own. Pigeon has been legal adviser to every Liberal leader in Quebec since he went to work for Premier Adélard Godbout in February 1940. Now sixty, he seems almost an anomaly among the young men of the new regime
— “When I looked at the members of the Lesage cabinet,” he says ruefully, “I realized for the first time that 1 had grown old” — but he is still a vitally important cog in the government machine. All important legislation goes across his desk.
“We all accept that everything has to go through L.-P. Pigeon,” said one of the more radical of Lesage’s ministers. “He has saved us from some hideous mistakes.”
Pigeon himself puts it more modestly: “Legislation is a very tricky business. Laws interlock, and it’s very difficult to see all the implications of any one bill. 1 have had more experience in this than some of the others. But I am not trying to set policy
— merely offering advice on the consequences that may be anticipated.”
“You might say that Pigeon is Quebec,” a cabinet minister said. “He’s a mixture of old - fashioned conservatism (for instance, he’s still upset about some mistakes he thinks were made by the Godbout government twenty-five years ago) and the most up-to-date sympathy with what we’re trying to do, and with the need for radical measures to catch up with the rest of Canada.
“The trouble is, he’s a bottleneck. He works twenty-nine hours a day,
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in a cabinet predominantly conservative, so-called leftists give the thrust
QUEBEC’S NEW FACES
continued from page 17
but he still can’t do everything as fast as it needs to be done.”
Actually, Pigeon's doctors recently cut him down from his “twenty-ninehour days” to a normal five-day, forty-five-hour week, and the work he used to do is now being shared by two other people. One is Yves Pratt, QC, who has resigned as dean of the Lava! Law School to devote himself to a “private” practice which, like Pigeon’s, will be almost entirely government work. The other is Louis Bernard, a young lawyer still in his twenties who was hired by the Lesage government while he was taking a postgraduate course at the University of London. Unlike Pigeon and Pratt, he is a full-time civil servant, and eventually he (and other civil servants like him) will take over the whole burden of drafting and examining legislation, displacing the private practitioners who have done it up to now.
But legal advisers, important as they are, are the brakes rather than the engines of the new Quebec government machine. Those who provide its motive power are a larger group which is growing still larger, as more and more young men are attracted to the provincial-government service.
Not that all of them are newcomers. Guy Frégault, deputy minister of cultural affairs, pumps out about two million dollars a year in grants to orchestras, theatre groups, libraries and similar enterprises, as well as scholarships to individual artists and writers. He is not directly concerned with economic policy but he is on close terms with the men who are, and he is a fiercely nationalistic French Canadian in spite (or perhaps because) of his experience as a history professor in Ottawa. Roland Parenteau, director-general of the Quebec Economic Advisory Council, has just moved into an executive role but has been a close consultant for some time.
Most of these men report to the radicals of the Lesage cabinet — a cabinet which is predominantly conservative in numbers, but in which the so-called leftists provide most of the thrust. These are René Lévesque in resources, Paul Gérin-Lajoie in education, Pierre Laporte in culture and municipal affairs and, improbably, Eric Kierans in the revenue department, who is a bundle of paradoxes — former president of the Montreal and Canadian Stock Exchanges, but an economic radical who is known as “The Socialist Millionaire” (a selfmade millionaire, too, not one by inheritance); a leader in Quebec’s drive*
toward a French-speaking economy, who has only recently improved his own French to complete fluency.
The extreme conservatives in the Lesage cabinet, such as René St. Pierre in public works, are not very influential and are obviously out of touch with what is going on. Middleroaders, however, may be closer to Jean Lesage’s own thinking than either the radicals or the right-wingers. One such is Gérard Lévesque of trade and industry, who is on very good personal terms with the young radicals in the civil service, but who is much more conservative than they are.
But the reason why lists like this are bound to be incomplete, and out of date almost before they are printed, is that the ranks of Quebec’s “New Wave” are still swelling rapidly. Partly it’s a consequence of higher pay. Jean Deschamps, deputy minister of industry, is proud to report that he has forty men in his department who earn more than ten thousand a year. Deputy ministers themselves get between twenty and twenty-five thousand (the best of them are about to get increases in salary) and are now as well paid as in any provincial government. Also, as each big job of legislation or planning is completed, the men responsible for it drop back and the focus shifts to other men.
Nevertheless, it’s probably still true that the most influential group is the little band of close friends who used to call themselves “the Mafia” (they don’t use the term so much lately, for fear somebody might take them literally). Claude Morin, deputy minister of federal-provincial affairs, is the central figure in this group; others include Michel Bélanger and André Marier in the resources department, Roch Bolduc in the Civil Service Commission, Jean Deschamps in trade and industry, Jacques Parizeau the economic adviser, and perhaps (though they are older than the others) Roger Marier in social welfare and Arthur Tremblay in education. (When it is said that Maurice Sauvé is the only federal minister who has close ties with Quebec, it’s Sauvé’s ties with this group that are meant. He is a close friend of Claude Morin, and
was the roommate of Jean Deschamps at Collège Classique. They all are also on close terms with Jean Marchand, the former trade-union leader who seems about to enter federal politics.)
All these men, except Bélanger and André Marier, are ex-professors. Most if not all are graduates of Father Lévesque’s School of Social Sciences at Laval. However much they may differ on the details of policy, they are all of one mind on fundamentals.
“For instance,” said one of them, “we take socialism for granted.”
An English Canadian, talking to any of them, might begin to suspect that they also take separatism for granted — not now but eventually.
“It’s obvious,” one remarked casually, “that we are moving in the direction of some form of separation.” When I said he reminded me of how Canadians used to talk of the Commonwealth in the 1920s (when it was becoming but had not yet quite become an association of independent countries) he replied, “Exactly — a very good analogy.”
But I soon realized, from further conversations with him and other members of the group, that he didn’t quite mean this. They all want more autonomy for the government of Quebec, probably more than any other province wants, probably more than can be got under the present constitution (and certainly every ounce that can be wrung out of the British North America Act). But although this would imply a certain amount of political separation, they don’t expect or intend any separation from the economy of Canada.
Jean Deschamps, deputy minister of industry, summed up his view:
“After all, separatism reverses the whole trend of our times — at least in the economic fields, where business is looking for bigger and bigger markets. In all developed countries, the trend is toward greater unity and integration. It’s only in places like Africa that you hear talk of separatism.
“Suppose we did separate from Canada, what would be the first thing Quebec would have to do? The very next day, we’d have to ask for a Common Market with Canada. And
if we got one, what is the next step? Europe’s experience shows that the next step is to look for some kind of central political authority — in other words, some modified form of confederation! We’d be back more or less where we started.”
But what they all agree upon, all of them from the near-separatists to the most federally-minded, is that “Ottawa must get out and stay out of provincial fields of jurisdiction.” The remark of one deputy minister was typical: “I’m not a separatist, but I sometimes feel like becoming one when Ottawa has made a particularly stupid intervention into our affairs.” This is not, as some English Canadians think, mere jealousy of power and authority. Jacques Parizeau, the economic adviser who probably knows as much as anyone about the details of federal-provincial co-operation, cites regional development as an example: ‘These projects are bound to be very complex. They involve not only two governments, but several departments within each. The result is utter chaos — you may have one policy designed to move people out of an area and another to keep them there, both in effect at the same time!” Another Quebec official complains of Ottawa’s rigid rules: “Pontiac
County is depressed, as even the Ottawa boys admit. But in their regional figures it’s lumped in with Hull, where employment is high — so they can’t make Pontiac a ‘designated area’ for federal assistance.”
Also, when economic planning is more and more accepted as a major function of government, the plans of two different governments are bound to collide. Recently Quebec’s department of industry offered tax conces-
sions to new plants in the region of Quebec City: instead, they’re being built near St. Johns, Que., where the federal department of industry offered larger tax concessions.
In Ottawa, there is more sympathy than there used to be for the provincial viewpoint. It was a federal, not a provincial official who explained: “Right now. about twenty percent of the budget decisions of any province are actually made in Ottawa. Imagine how you’d feel if you were a provincial treasurer or premier, about to introduce your budget, and you hear that Ottawa has just announced (without consulting you) a new program in a provincial field, in which you will be expected to bear half the cost.
“Add to this the petty irritations, like being told by a federal official where you should put your picnic tables along the Trans-Canada Highway. (I’m not kidding — in Alvin Hamilton’s time the boys in natural resources were actually doing that.) I assure you, you don’t have to be a French Canadian to get mad at that sort of treatment.”
But perhaps another reason for the new sympathy between Ottawa and Quebec bureaucrats is a personal fellow feeling. The “new men” in Quebec are the same breed as their counterparts at the top of the federal civil service.
For one thing, they are work addicts. Claude Morin, who still teaches a few hours a week at Laval, says, “It’s my unemployment insurance.” And he is only half joking. “Five more years at this pace, and we’re all going to be burned out.” Morin works a nineor ten-hour day in his office, then takes a sheaf of work home every week-day evening. He tries to keep
the weekends clear to spend with his family, but he shows the classic symptoms of work addiction: “Even if I’m at home mowing my lawn. I’m still thinking about the work on my desk, and what 1 have to do next week.”
The results of all this labor are admired by fellow bureaucrats. “Right now, the economic studies that are coming out of Quebec are the best, the most sophisticated, of any in Canada,” an Ottawa man said.
Both capitals are realistic about the
problems ahead. They are thorny and difficult, and neither group can see any hope of avoiding serious tensions on issues of policy. Some of them are formidable and discouraging. But an outsider, after many talks with the men who are dealing with these problems on both sides, still comes away with a comforting impression. Anything that’s being handled by men as able, and as fundamentally congenial, as these young men, is bound to come out all right in the end. ★