Landrys death highlights the passing of sovereigntys pioneering generation

Landry\s death highlights the passing of sovereignty\s pioneering generation
Bernard Landry to be honoured with state funeral
Bernard Landry, the former premier of Quebec who was a key figure in the pro-independence movement that came close to victory in the 1995 referendum, has died at the age of 81.

Mr. Landry died at home on Tuesday surrounded by his grown children and wife, Chantal Renaud, after an extended illness that severely diminished his lung capacity.

"I had the chance to talk with him last week. I decided to call him and ask him for advice," Legault said in Quebec City. "He thought that it was his duty to help me. He said, 'I'm ready to help you, François, for Quebec.'"

Mr. Landry served as Quebec premier from 2001 to 2003 after Lucien Bouchard resigned. He never won an election as premier but he led the last Parti Québécois majority government. He served as deputy premier under Jacques Parizeau during the 1995 referendum and retained the post while adding a list of economic portfolios including finance under Mr. Bouchard from 1996 to 2001.

Quebec Premier François Legault served as an education and health minister under Mr. Landry, and described him as a brilliant premier who paid attention to the finest details.

But Landry's time in the premier's office is best remembered for insisting Quebec was ready for a third referendum. In 2002, he famously declared Quebec would be independent within "1,000 days." 

I remember going to his home when he asked me to move from education to health. I didnt see that too positively. He told me, François, its your duty. To him, duty was important. As he often said, party goes before person, and country before party, Mr. Legault said.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered condolences to Mr. Landrys family. He served in politics and the cause he believed in with tremendous passion and devotion, he said.

Mr. Landry was one of the last lions of the sovereignty movement, and got involved in politics in the 1960s alongside René Lévesque and was part of the first PQ government in 1976.

(Marois, in the end, did get her chance to lead the PQ, winning a minority in 2012. Legault quit the party, renounced sovereignty and formed his own party, which won a majority in last month's election.) 

Pascal Bérubé, the PQs interim leader, called Mr. Landry the Patriot of Verchères, the town along the shore of the St. Laurence west of Montreal where Mr. Landry lived and died. He never travelled toward any other country but Quebec.

Landry's death comes just after his beloved party suffered its worst electoral performance since the early 1970s, reduced to a paltry 10 seats in the October election and facing an uncertain future. 

As finance minister, Mr. Landry cut spending starting in 1996 and balanced the Quebec budget for the first time in decades, but it came at a steep political cost for his party and the sovereignty movement, neither of which has ever returned to the levels of popularity of the 1990s.

Landry returned to a teaching post at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where journalists could easily reach him by leaving a message on his voicemail, certain he would call back by deadline. 

Mr. Landry was an acclaimed PQ leader and became premier in 2001 after Mr. Bouchard left politics. He was defeated by Jean Charest in 2003. The crowning achievement of his brief time in office was a treaty with Quebec Cree, known as La Paix des Braves, which gave Indigenous nations joint jurisdiction and a share of profits in resource and hydro-electric developments in their territory. This was no small thing, it completely changed the relationship between Quebec and the Cree and its been used as an example around the world, former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said.

But despite doggedly pushing for a third referendum, Landry, who spoke fluent Spanish as well as English and French, was also remembered Monday for advocating a cosmopolitan vision of sovereignty.

Mr. Landry also drafted Quebecs first digital strategy 22 years ago, which led major firms such as Ubisoft and Electronic Arts to become key pieces of the Montreal economy.

Mr. Landry could be hot-tempered. In 2001, during a disagreement with the federal government over Ottawas demand to link funding for an aquarium to the display of a Canadian flag, he said Quebec would not prostitute itself for a chiffon rouge – an expression he said was meant to compare the Maple Leaf to a red cloth waved by a matador, but was widely translated in English media as a red rag. He spent years afterward trying to correct the record.

"We have to quickly rally the majority of our fellow citizens to the cause of a sovereign Quebec, not in 20 years, not in 10 years, but in 1,000 days," he told a PQ meeting. 

Mr. Landry remained active in politics and current affairs well into his retirement, never hesitating to criticize onetime colleagues and urging young people to get involved in politics.

"We were wartime generals," said former premier Jean Charest, who was leader of the federal Conservatives and a champion of the No side in the referendum campaign.  

Mr. Landry was one of the last in a line of Quebec politicians that included Pierre Trudeau, Mr. Parizeau and Mr. Bouchard, who were classically trained under the clergy and could slip into Latin on a whim. Audi alteram partem, he said repeatedly during his last election campaign in 2003 – an exhortation to listen to the other side before casting judgment.

Two years later, Mr. Landry resigned abruptly as leader of the PQ and from politics after a lukewarm confidence vote of 76.2 per cent from his party – a decision he made on the spot without consulting key advisers and one he almost immediately regretted.

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Landry was a key member of the PQ team that upended Quebec politics by winning the 1976 election, went on to serve in a number of cabinet positions under Lévesque.  

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Quebec Premier François Legault, Landry's one-time cabinet colleague and occasional foe, announced Tuesday the province will hold a state funeral in his honour. 

"He was a remarkable man, a man of great talent," former Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said about Bernard Landry. Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Twenty-five years after Levesques win for the PQ, Landry led the way when he took office in 2001 as the 28th premier of Quebec. He pursued the goal of making Quebec a country, all while trying to reassure the English community.

QUEBEC — As tributes poured in Tuesday, Premier François Legault announced former premier Bernard Landry will be honoured with a full state funeral.

In 2001, just two months before becoming premier, Landry sparked another controversy. Ottawa placed conditions on a federal grant to renovate the Quebec City Zoo and Aquarium – including flying the Canadian flag on site.

Emerging from his office to comment on the death of Landry, Legault said he had spoken to Landry’s widow, Chantal Renaud, and offered the state funeral.

Getting to the top of Quebecs political class took time for the lawyer from the Lanaudiere town on Saint-Jacques. He ran for the PQ twice in the early 1970s before finally winning a seat in 1976 in the Fabre riding.

Clearly moved, Legault added his own tribute to Landry, who was his boss when he was a Parti Québécois minister in Landry’s cabinet. Quebec’s 28th premier, Landry governed from March 2001 to April 2003.

After the night of the 1995 referendum, an employee at the Intercontinental Hotel accused him of verbally abusing her because she was a Mexican immigrant. Landry was the provinces immigration minister at the time.

He revealed he and Landry had spoken last week on the phone and had planned to get together soon to talk politics. His death came as a surprise, Legault said.

In fact, Landry wanted to offer some political advice, even though Legault is governing Quebec as a province while Landry never abandoned the idea of independence during his 50 years of political life.

Parti Quebecois Leader Bernard Landry announces his resignation as party president in Quebec City on Saturday June 4, 2005. Landry has died at age 81. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Clement Allard

“Mr. Landry was a man of state. He was among the greats, in the same league as premiers (René) Lévesque and (Jacques) Parizeau,” Legault said. “He was a man who really loved Quebec.

“As he often said: The party before men and the homeland before the party. For him these were things that were constants. He was a man of great stature.”

The backlash was immediate, forcing Landry to apologize – though he insisted the English media misinterpreted the comment because of a translation issue.

Other persons from Landry’s life — political allies and foes — came forward with praise and tributes.

“We have lost one of our greatest patriots, a man who made Quebec independence the cause of his life,” said the current interim leader of the PQ, Pascal Bérubé.

For Landry, a confidence vote of 76.2 per cent wasnt enough to lead the party into the next election and toward what they truly hoped for: a referendum.

“He was a remarkable man, a man of great talent,” added former PQ leader and premier Pauline Marois, who succeeded Landry. She noted Landry’s lifelong dedication to improving Quebec’s economy.

To that end, Landry drew up some of the first blueprints for making Quebec’s economy more global, even if it irritated the party’s left wing and the unions.

The comments came just hours after Jacques Parizeau made his infamous speech, blaming the Yes sides loss on money and the ethnic vote.

“He was a man open to the world, informed and interested in what was happening on the planet.”

The absolute respect of everyones right in all aspects of their lives is a part of our deepest conviction, he said at the time.

Jean-François Lisée, another former PQ leader, said Landry believed in independence with all his heart and soul and was always ready to push the province further.

“Mr. Landry was a man of passion,” Arcand said. “Nobody can deny his love for Quebec. He helped build the Quebec of today.”

Landry spent a lifetime devoted to politics and to the idea of an independent Quebec – a cause he believed in until his death.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante praised Landry’s vision and foresight in encouraging digital industries when the field was still in its infancy.

Former Quebec premier Bernard Landry speaks in Quebec City, Wednesday, March 11, 2009. (Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

His help for creative and high-tech startups “not only allowed Montreal to take off and get noticed, but it also allowed Quebec to become known internationally,” Plante said.

“You had to be a visionary. You had to be able to look into the future to see what would allow us as Montrealers and Quebecers to develop an international profile and that’s one of the major projects on which he led the way,” she said.

Lionel Perez, leader of the Ensemble Montréal party, said all Quebecers owe Landry “a great debt of gratitude.”

“I had the opportunity to have many discussions over the years with him and I always recognized his openness on being able to share his view of Quebec with people of different origins and different backgrounds,” he said.

Au nom des Montréalais.e.s, joffre toutes mes sympathies à la famille et aux proches de lex-premier ministre du Québec, M. Bernard Landry. Montréal perd un ami fidèle et le Québec un grand visionnaire. Merci pour tout ce que vous avez fait pour le Québec. #polmtl #polqc

Quebec’s Indigenous nations, with whom Landry negotiated a historic development agreement, also recalled the important role he play in their lives.

If the family agrees, it usually includes a lying in state in the historic red room of the legislature.

On Tuesday, Legault ordered the flag on the central tower of the National Assembly lowered in honour of Landry.