Martin C. Barry
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard joined hundreds of members of the Quebec Liberal Party in a celebration at the Embassy Plaza last week marking an historic moment in the PLQ’s history – the 150th anniversary of the governing provincial party’s founding.
As coincidence has it, Canada and the PLQ have something in common: they both came into being in 1867. As such both are celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year, although the PLQ’s is probably the lesser known of the two celebrations.
PLQ’s 19th century roots
While Liberal Party of Quebec may seem moderate and centrist today compared to other provincial political parties that espouse views considerably further to the left, the PLQ is in fact descended from 19th century political forces which were the most radical in their day.
The PLQ’s ancestors were the Parti canadien, sometimes also called the Parti patriote, which supported the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837 which was suppressed by British forces which governed Quebec back then.
The PLQ is also descended from the Parti rouge which had a key role in the early struggles for responsible government and which was known for its antagonism towards the Roman Catholic Church which dominated Quebec society back then. The Parti rouge was inspired by the political thinking of Louis-Joseph Papineau.
Not all MNAs attended
Among those who attended the March 25 celebration were Mille-Îles MNA Francine Charbonneau, Fabre MNA Monique Sauvé, Laval-des-Rapides MNA Saul Polo, and former MNA for the riding of LaFontaine (who now leads the Action Laval municipal opposition party) Jean-Claude Gobé.
Sainte-Rose MNA Jean Habel and Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette were unable to attend as they were on a Parliamentary mission outside Quebec. Vimont MNA Jean Rousselle also couldn’t be there as he was sidelined with a health problem involving his eyesight that that it necessary for him to take it easy for a few days.
“In 150 years we’ve never hesitated to do things which were difficult,” Premier Couillard said in the event’s keynote speech, alluding at one point to the late President John F. Kennedy and his famous words to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Couillard’s take on the phrase was that tough decisions sometimes require the courage of individuals who aren’t afraid of challenges.
Couillard touched on several other issues, including the PLQ’s ability to strike a proper balance between social justice and economic growth. “It must be said that the Liberal Party of Quebec is the party for the economy,” said Couillard. “It’s always been that way and today we remain the party most dedicated to the economy.
Economy and education
“People have sometimes come to me saying what is your priority – the economy or education?” Couillard continued. “I have no problem saying that it’s the two. You can never separate them. The other important link is social justice, which allows us to offer more than an empty lecture on solidarity, but rather concrete actions coming from solidarity. It’s the most effective way we know to generate wealth, and it’s always been that way with the Liberal Party of Quebec.”
A believer in social justice
Couillard maintained that the PLQ’s latest budget reflects these principles. “It’s not true that in Quebec everyone gets the same chance, and it’s not true that in Quebec everyone is born with the same opportunities. So a government has a duty in the name of solidarity to equalize the inequalities in order to give everyone an even chance.”
Alluding to his ancestral roots as a member of one of the earliest families to arrive in New France from Europe more than 400 years ago, Couillard insisted that a pedigree like this doesn’t confer on him a status superior to anyone else in Quebec. “We are all citizens of Quebec with the same importance and the same influence,” he said.