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Union Nationale defeats Lesage's Quebec Liberals

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.

It's being hailed as the political upset of the year. Everyone had predicted another victory for Premier Jean Lesage and the ruling Liberal party. As shown in this CBC Television clip, a confident Lesage tells a crowd of supporters that he is ready to take Quebec to the second stage of progress. But much to the Liberals' disbelief, Daniel Johnson and his conservative Union Nationale party come out on top, winning 56 seats to the Liberal's 50.

The results of the June 5, 1966, election mean six years of Liberal rule are coming to an abrupt end. No one is more surprised than Premier Lesage. Convinced of an easy re-election, Lesage had run the campaign as a one-man show with strong emphasis on his personal legacy. The Liberal loss is seen as a personal blow to Lesage.

Liberal member René Lévesque suggests the defeat was due to his party's failure to address local and regional issues. Rural concerns were largely ignored in favour of big, long-term projects such as nationalizing power companies and improving education and highways.
• Shortly after the 1966 election, René Lévesque left the Liberal party to form what would become the Parti Québécois in 1968. The PQ's main objective was Quebec sovereignty.

• Lévesque began his career in politics as a member of the Liberal party in 1960. He left his job as a popular television journalist on Radio-Canada's Point de Mire.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning Magazine
Broadcast Date: June 12, 1966
Guest(s): Pierre Bourgault, Frank Hanley, Daniel Johnson, Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, Jean Lesage, René Lévesque, Herbert Quinn
Duration: 13:23

Last updated: February 8, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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