NEWS

5 ways Jacques Parizeau shaped the future of Quebec

06/02/2015 05:02 EDT | Updated 06/02/2016 05:59 EDT
The man who nearly led Quebec to sovereignty holds a controversial place in the annals of Canadian politics.

Remembered by many as a visionary who fought for a nation he dreamed of for decades, for others Jacques Parizeau will always be the man who voiced his heated frustration the evening of the "Oui" campaign's narrow loss, clearly distinguishing "us" and them. 

However he is remembered, his mark has been left on many of the touchstones of this province in the last half century. Here's a look through the major moments of Parizeau's legacy. 

1.The Quiet Revolution

Jacques Parizeau was one of the key civil servants in the province's socio-political shift.

"Parizeau used to joke that the Quiet Revolution was the result of a few politicians, a few civil servants, and 50 chansonniers," said CBC's Senior Quebec Political Analyst, Bernard St-Laurent.

Parizeau was one of the architects of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Société Générale de Financement and Hydro-Québec, institutions that have shaped modern Quebec society.

"It's hard to imagine what this province would be like today without the contribution of those institutions."

2. A legitimate finance minister

With a PhD from the London School of Economics, Parizeau was a bona fide financier who could talk to Wall Street, but also could reach out further afield when push came to shove.

He was appointed finance minister by René Lévesque following 1976 election win of the Parti Québécois.

"He gave the sovereignty movement credibility in an area where it had very little," St-Laurent said.

3. The big walk out

Parizeau said he didn't enter politics to be the finance minister of a province. He entered politics to be the finance minister of a country.

When Premier René Lévesque said it was worth the risk of giving Canadian federalism another chance, Parizeau saw his government taking a further step away from sovereignty. Parizeau was the most prominent of several cabinet ministers who walked away.

"René Lévesque's Beau Risque was just unacceptable to him. That's why he quit," St-Laurent said.

The internal crisis revealed the fault lines in the sovereignty movement.

4. Rebuilding the PQ

After briefly retiring from politics, Parizeau returned to re-chart the course of the sovereigntist movement.

"He came back because he couldn't accept that his party had moved away from its essence and it was time to start focusing on making Quebec a country," St-Laurent said.

Parizeau was elected leader of the PQ and gradually rebuilt the party, leading it to a majority in 1994 and a promised and divisive referendum in 1995.

5. Bitter referendum remarks

For many outside the province of Quebec, Parizeau's lasting image is of his frustrated post-referendum remarks blaming the referendum loss on "money and ethnic votes."

"Their internal polling told them they had won. That the dream of his lifetime was coming true and it was just torn away from him," St-Laurent said.

He was reviled by many after that night, a stain that lingered decades later. 

"I think it's only his death and more than 20 years of distance that people are able to look at the full picture."

MORE:cbcNews