POLITICS

Jacques Parizeau, Ex-Quebec Premier, Remembered As A 'Giant'

06/02/2015 02:31 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT
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MONTREAL - Former premier Jacques Parizeau will have a state funeral and the province will rename the Caisse de depot's headquarters after "one of Quebec's great builders," Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday.

Funeral details will be announced later, but Couillard indicated Parizeau left behind very detailed instructions for his last rites.

Parizeau's longtime wife, Lisette Lapointe, announced the death on her Facebook page Monday night, saying the sovereigntist icon had passed away after a "titanic fight" with an undisclosed illness.

Couillard paid tribute to Parizeau, calling him a "very sincere and honest man, deeply convinced of his own ideas."

The depiction of Parizeau, 84, as the man who nearly engineered Quebec's departure from Canada with the 1995 sovereignty referendum was not what he should only be remembered for, the premier said.

He added his voice to those calling Parizeau one of the "great builders of the Quiet Revolution" who helped establish institutions like the Caisse de depot, the province's pension-fund manager, which benefits all Quebecers.

"Today, we have to rise above that level, all of us, and remember him for what he gave: the part of his life he gave to Quebec and Quebecers," Couillard said. "I don't think he himself would like celebrations or memories that are going to be told today to be coloured by partisanship. This is not the day for that."

People of all political stripes weighed in with glowing tributes.

Current Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau said the entire province is in mourning following the death of the man who held that same job between 1988 and 1996.

"He was a man of passion," Peladeau said. "He really believed in what he considered the best way for Quebec to enrich itself — and that was Quebec independence.

"He was a nice mix, and a very effective one, of passion and rationality."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among several federal and provincial politicians who posted tweets to express their sympathy.

"On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen & I extend our deepest condolences to the family & friends of former premier Jacques Parizeau," Harper wrote.

Parizeau was finance minister for eight years under Rene Levesque before leaving the PQ in 1984 over his boss's decision to shelve the sovereignty option.

Parizeau returned as PQ leader in 1988 before becoming premier in the 1994 election and paving the way for the independence referendum that eventually led to his political resignation following the Yes side's narrow defeat.

The man he faced off against in 1995, then-prime minister Jean Chretien, said they had a cordial relationship dating back to 1965 when both worked at the federal Finance Department. That said, they were on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

"He made some positive contributions (to Quebec), there's no doubt about it and he should be complimented for that," Chretien said. "But at the same, being a federalist who was on the other side of the debate all the time, it was a civilized relation I would say, despite our disagreement."

Chretien commended Parizeau for a life devoted to public service and his willingness to defend strong views and fight for them.

"It's good to have those type of people in a democratic society," Chretien said.

Lucien Bouchard, who followed Parizeau as premier, said the one thing his predecessor didn't have while leading the province was the benefit of time.

"In his case, he was immediately engulfed into the thrust toward the referendum and so he only had one year (as premier)," Bouchard told The Canadian Press. "It was much too short."

Parizeau had the highest respect for the premier's post, which he'd spent years trying to reach, Bouchard said. But he remembered Parizeau as a strong sovereigntist who devoted most of his energy, time and resources to the 1995 referendum.

"It's a pity, that's something he must have been very sorry about, to have missed so much time to achieve what he had in mind (as premier)," Bouchard said.

Parizeau's grandson said his grandfather's teachings will never leave him.

"My grandfather was an incredible man," said Hadrien Parizeau. "He taught me a lot. The advice he gave me during unforgettable times with him will continue to guide me forever.

"Thanks granddad."

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