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Robert Bourassa calls 1976 election against René Lévesque

The Story

At six o'clock on Oct. 18, 1976, Premier Robert Bourassa makes it official. He calls a general election for Nov. 15 in a televised speech carried by CBC Television. Bourassa's early election call would turn out be the worst mistake of his political career. It would also change Canada forever. Bourassa cites the patriation of the Constitution as the main reason for calling an election a year ahead of schedule. His opponents don't buy it. It's a sham, says Parti Québécois leader René Lévesque. Lévesque says the early election call is proof that Bourassa has lost the ability to govern Quebec. He says it's a panicked attempt by an increasingly unpopular leader to save his personal career. "This early election is a godsend for Quebec voters," says Levesque. "It gives them a chance to get rid of the Bourassa government a full year before the expected time." Lévesque's words prove prophetic. On Nov. 15, 1976, Quebecers deliver a historic win for 54-year-old Lévesque and his Parti Québécois. The PQ crushes Bourassa's Liberals winning a total of 71 seats, 15 seats more than required for a majority government. It also starts the ball rolling towards an independent Quebec.

Medium: Television
Broadcast Date: Oct. 18, 1976
Program: CBC Television News
Host: Richard Inwood
Guests: Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque, Jérôme Choquette, Camille Saint-Saens, Rodrique Biron
Duration: 9:54

Did You know?

• The Liberals walked away with 26 seats, Union Nationale won 11 seats, the Créditiste and the new Parti National Populaire both captured one seat each.

• The anger over Bill 22 eventually led to the resignation of Robert Bourassa as the Liberal party leader.

• Robert Bourassa alienated the traditional Liberal English support with Bill 22. The bill proclaimed French as the official language of Quebec, restricted access to English schools and forced corporations to adopt French names. The language act came under severe criticism from English Quebecers who felt it went too far. Their anger was responsible for delivering a first-time victory for the Parti Québécois. Levesque


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