CBC Digital Archives

Quebec seeks to nationalize its hydroelectric plants

Quebec elections are never dull because they are full of colourful characters, intrigue and more than a few surprises. Whether it's the Liberals ushering in the Quiet Revolution with their 1960 win, or the emotional 1976 election of René Lévesque and his separatist Parti Québécois, the voting habits of our belle province guarantee to fascinate.

Maîtres chez nous! (Masters of our own house!) is the rallying cry of Jean Lesage and his ruling Liberal party. Premier Lesage calls for the nationalization of all 11 privately owned electric power companies in Quebec. He says Quebecers must become masters of their own economic destiny. Lesage tells CBC Television that nationalization is so essential he's willing to risk his political future on this one issue. "Maintenant ou jamais!" (Now or never!) says Lesage.

His opponent, Daniel Johnson, the leader of the Union Nationale, warns that the Liberals are on a slippery path to socialism. Johnson accuses Lesage of being a "spineless leader" and a mere puppet of René Lévesque, his dynamic and popular minister of natural resources. Despite the UN's scare tactics, Quebec voters once again side with Jean Lesage on Nov. 14, 1962. His Liberal party is easily re-elected, comfortably winning 63 seats over the Union Nationale's 31.
• Days before the election, the chief organizer for the Union Nationale was arrested for fraud when 4,000 fake voters' slips were found inside a train station locker. UN leader Daniel Johnson denied the charges saying it was a Liberal frame-up. Jean Lesage responded by saying corruption, blackmail and political immorality were trademarks of the Union Nationale from the Maurice Duplessis days.

• Daniel Johnson said René Lévesque, with his strong socialist leanings, was the true leader of the Liberal party. Johnson referred to Lévesque as "Castro."
• The 1962 win gave the Liberals the green light to begin the process of nationalizing all 11 privately owned electric power companies into the government-owned Hydro-Québec (formed in 1944). The provincially owned Hydro-Québec is currently Canada's largest electric utility corporation.(2003)
Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: March 17, 1964
Guest(s): René Lévesque
Host: Norman DePoe
Narrator: Rex Loring
Duration: 4:36

Last updated: May 8, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

A visit by the Queen in 1977

The Queen calls for unity at a state dinner in Ottawa.

Hydroelectricity: Joey Smallwood on Churchill...

The former Newfoundland premier says he wasn't involved with negotiations over the price of hy...

Churchill Falls: 'The biggest giveaway in his...

The Churchill Falls project in Newfoundland is completed on budget and on time, but Quebec com...

Hydroelectricity chez nous

René Lévesque explains why building the Manicouagan hydroelectric plant is important to the pr...