Courtesy Reuters

The French-Canadian Dilemma

The last five years have been portentous ones in the Province of Quebec. In September 1959, Premier Maurice Duplessis died of a stroke after 15 years of uninterrupted rule. He was succeeded by an enlightened conservative, Paul Sauvé, who also died four months later following a heart attack. That was the beginning of a rapid disintegration for Duplessis' National Union Party. At the next provincial election held in June 1960, the Liberal Party won a surprise victory over the National Union. Jean Lesage, a former minister in the federal cabinet of Louis St. Laurent, became head of the first Liberal administration in Quebec since 1944.

Mr. Lesage came into office with the help of three reform-minded colleagues, Georges-Emile Lapalme, René Lévesque and Paul Gérin-Lajoie, who were deeply committed to modernizing the government machinery and making democracy become a living reality in economics, education and welfare. Lapalme and Gérin-Lajoie had opposed Lesage at a leadership convention of their party in 1958 but had then rallied under the new leader. Lévesque had been a highly popular broadcaster but had never had anything to do with an organized political party; he was known for his advanced social views but was not generally considered as a nationalist. Each of these three men was assigned to a key post in the new Lesage administration and it became clear from that very moment that, regardless of his personal leanings, Mr. Lesage had committed his administration to a progressive line which was to change the face of the province and raise anew the question of what should be the position of French Canada in North America.

The Prime Minister of Quebec is not merely the political head of a province. He is also the leader of French Canadians. He is the one to whom they look for guidance in all matters related to their temporal welfare. French Canadians may be proud to see one of their men as Prime Minister in Ottawa, but the Premier of Quebec is always

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