Courtesy Reuters

Quebec Changes Governments

When Mr. Jean Lesage, after serving only three and a half years of a five- year mandate as Prime Minister of Quebec, decided to call a general election for June 5 of this year, few observers thought that the incumbent Liberals would be out of office ten days after the election.

Mr. Lesage had been remarkably successful as head of a generally honest and efficient administration. He was considered by most observers far superior to his rival, Mr. Daniel Johnson. He could count on a team comprising at least a half-dozen front-rank stars. Nobody had got the impression during the last session of the provincial legislature that the National Union party was a serious contender for power. Mr. Lesage and his colleagues went into the election as if it had been business routine. They were so confident of winning that Mr. Lesage boasted on a couple of occasions that Mr. Johnson himself would hardly be returned to the legislature.

Things turned out quite differently. To his great discomfiture Mr. Lesage got 47 percent of the total vote but only 51 seats in the House while Mr. Johnson's National Union, with only 41 percent of the vote, took 56 seats. According to Canadian parliamentary tradition, Mr. Lesage had no choice. Ten days after the stunning result, he handed over the reins of government to his rival. Ever since that fateful day, observers in Canada and other parts of the world have been asking two questions. What caused the defeat of Mr. Lesage? What should one expect from Mr. Johnson and his party?


Whatever the result, the last election in Quebec was an honest one. It was fought for the first time under a new law which provides for much stricter control of candidates' expenses and for substantial financial contributions from the state to leading candidates in each constituency. Secret election funds of the past were not entirely absent, but occult financing was not a major factor in deciding the outcome of the election.

Since the National

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