- Adélard Godbout
name = Hon. Joseph-Adélard Godbout
order = 15th
Premier of Quebec
June 11, 1936
August 28, 1936
predecessor = Louis-A. Taschereau
November 8, 1939
August 30, 1944
predecessor3 = Maurice Duplessis
successor3 = Maurice Duplessis
birth_date = birth date|1892|9|24|mf=y
death_date = death date and age | 1956|09|18|1892|09|24
party = Liberal
spouse = Dorilda Fortin
Joseph-Adélard Godbout (
24 September, 1892– 18 September, 1956) was an agronomist and politician in Quebec, Canada. He served as Premier of Quebec briefly in 1936, and again from 1939 to 1944. He was also leader of the Parti Libéral du Québec(PLQ).
Youth and early career
Adélard Godbout was born in Saint-Éloi. He was the son of Eugène Godbout,
agriculturalistand Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly(MLA) from 1921 to 1923, and Marie-Louise Duret. He studied at the Séminaire de Rimouski, the agricultural school of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière and the Amherst Agricultural College, in the American state of Massachusetts. He then became teacher at the Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière agricultural school from 1918 to 1930. He was an agronomist for the Ministry of Agriculture from 1922 to 1925.
Member of the Legislature
Godbout became a Member of the legislature for the district of L'Islet in the
Chaudière-Appalachesarea, after he won a by-electionwithout opposition on May 13, 1929. He was re-elected in the 1931 and 1935 elections.
Member of the Cabinet
Shortly after the 1935 election, Conservative Leader
Maurice Duplessis, a rising star in Quebec politics, forced Taschereau to call the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which brought to light the existence of widespread corruption in the provincial government. The revelations made by the committee were embarrassing for several Liberal insiders. On June 11, 1936, less than a year after being put back in office, Taschereau resigned. He recommended to Lieutenant Governor Ésioff-Léon Patenaudethe names of Édouard Lacroix and Adélard Godbout for his successor as Premier. Following constitutional conventions, the lieutenant governor offered the opportunity to form a government to Lacroix, who declined. He then made the offer to Godbout, who accepted. With the blessing of federal Cabinet Members, he took over Taschereau’s job as Liberal Leader and Premier of Quebec. Godbout formed his first government and an election was called for August, 1936.
Godbout had remained untouched by the scandals. But despite Godbout's talks of "a new order" in an effort to distance himself from the Taschereau era, his first government lasted only two months, as his party suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1936 election. Led by Duplessis, the recently created Union nationale was put in office. The Liberals were reduced to 14 seats. Godbout lost re-election in his own district of L'Islet. He remained Liberal Leader, but T.-D. Bouchard led the parliamentary wing of the party until the 1939 election.
World War IIcreated the opportunity that Godbout needed to make a political comeback. An early provincial general election was called in 1939 and federal Cabinet member Ernest Lapointe, the Quebec lieutenantof Prime Minister Mackenzie King, took the stump for Godbout. He guaranteed that no one would face conscription if voters supported the Liberals. Lapointe would die of cancer in 1941.
Through the campaign, Godbout relentlessly repeated the formal promise : "The government will never declare military conscription. I undertake, on my honor, weighing each of my words, to leave my party and even to fight against it, if even one French Canadian, before the end of the hostilities in Europe, is mobilized against his will under a Liberal government." ["Le Soleil", October 6, 1939.] Their promise would soon haunt Liberal politicians.
In the meantime though, Godbout made a spectacular comeback. He and 69 of his candidates were sent to the legislature. Godbout formed his second government, where he would serve as Premier and as minister of Agriculture.
Under Godbout’s premiership, the provincial government implemented a number of significant progressive legislations, laying the groundwork for the
Quiet Revolutionthat would be implemented by the government of Premier Jean Lesagea couple of decades later. In fact, the Liberal administration delivered many of the proposals made by Paul Gouin’s Action libérale nationalein 1935.
These measures include:
#the enactment of the right to vote for women in 1940, despite resistance from Duplessis and the
#the establishment of a
Civil Service Commissionin 1943;
#the passage of an act that enforced compulsory school attendance until the age of 14 and the introduction of
free educationin primary schools in 1943;
#the adoption of a Labour Code that established principles governing union certification and the negotiation of collective agreements in 1944;
#the nationalization of the
Montreal Light, Heat & Power Company, a private corporation who had a monopoly on gas and electric light in the Montrealarea, which lead to the creation of Hydro-Québecin 1944. [ [http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/bios/godbout.htm Biographies of Prominent Quebec Historical Figures - Adélard Godbout, Marianopolis College, 2005] ]
Relations with the federal government
Because he served during wartime and dealt with federal politicians who believed in a strong federal government, Godbout was pressured into abandoning a number of the provincial jurisdictions. The most notable prerogatives that he surrendered to Ottawa include:
#the opportunity to create and oversight a provincial
unemployment insurancesystem (a nation-wide program was put into action in 1940);
#the power to tax the income of individuals and corporations, in exchange for a much more modest financial compensation from the federal government.
In a 1942 plebiscite, Canadian voters were asked to release the Government from its commitment made to the Quebec voters not to declare military conscription. Even though the majority of predominantly French-speaking Quebec refused, English-speakers throughout Canada accepted. Even though not that many people were forced to serve until the end of the war, the decision made by Mackenzie King to allow conscription was very unpopular in Quebec. Opposition Leader Maurice Duplessis, whose criticism of the federal encroachments to the constitutional autonomy of the provinces capitalized on the population’s mistrust of the federal government, had a field day.
In the 1944 provincial election, Godbout's Liberals and Duplessis’ Union Nationale received similar shares of the popular vote, the Liberals getting slightly more votes but the UN enjoying a level of support in the province’s rural areas that was strong enough to win a majority of seats to the legislature and thus form the government.
Godbout served as Leader of the Opposition until the 1948 election. Benefiting from post-war prosperity, the Union Nationale won an overwhelming majority. The Liberals won only eight seats, six of whom were located on the Montreal Island. Once again, Godbout narrowly lost re-election in his home district of L'Islet. In 1950, he relinquished the leadership of the Liberal Party.
In 1949, Godbout was appointed to the
Canadian Senateon the recommendation of Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. He remained a senator until his death in 1956.
Observers are divided about the significance of Godbout’s legacy. Lacking the oratory skills [ [http://archives.radio-canada.ca/IDC-0-17-271-1381-11/politique_economie/maurice_duplessis_ministre/ Maurice Duplessis reprend le pouvoir, Les Archives de Radio-Canada, August 8, 1944] ] of Duplessis, [ [http://archives.radio-canada.ca/IDC-0-18-1267-7208/personnalites/maurice_duplessis/clip5 Duplessis triomphe devant ses partisans, Les Archives de Radio-Canada, June 20, 1956] ] his main political competitor, Godbout is sometimes judged very severely.
Federalists stress the importance progressive precedents that were set under Godbout’s premiership. [ [http://www.vigile.net/archives/00-2/godbout.html Réhabilitons Adélard Godbout, Jean-Guy Genest, Cité libre, Winter 2000] ]
Autonomists on the other hand criticize him for taking a weak stance in the matters of the province’s autonomy. [ [http://www.action-nationale.qc.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=372&Itemid=1 Pour en finir avec le bon et juste Adélard Godbout, Michel Lévesque, L’Action nationale, December 21, 2006] ]
More nuanced analysis claim that, being in power during World War II, he served in a difficult time, despite the shortcomings of his relations with the federal government.
In his 2000 film entitled "
Traître ou Patriote", filmmaker Jacques Godbout, Adélard's nephew, lamented what he perceived as a lack of public knowledge about his uncles's work and premiership.
On September 27, 2007, in a ceremony attended by Premier Jean Charest, a former electrical power station in Montreal, at the corner of Wellington and Queen streets, known as Poste Central-1 was named in honour of Godbout. A bust of Godbout by sculptor Emile Brunet (1893-1977) has been installed at the site.
Elections as party leader
*Genest, Jean-Guy, "Godbout", Septentrion, Sillery, 1996, 390 p.
* [http://www2.marianopolis.edu/quebechistory/bios/godbout.htm Biography of Adélard Godbout from Marianopolis College]
* [http://www.assnat.qc.ca/fra/membres/notices/g-i/GODBJA.htm National Assembly biography] (in French)
Politics of Quebec
Quebec general elections
Timeline of Quebec history
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