Members of the Bourassa family stand around the statue of Robert Bourassa unveiled Thursday in front of the legislature in Quebec City. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa was honoured in the provincial capital on Thursday, but another proposed tribute to the Liberal politician spurred criticism in Montreal.

In Quebec City, a 2½-metre bronze statue of Bourassa was unveiledin front of the national assembly, not far from a statue of longtime political rival René Lévesque.

Premier Jean Charest, Opposition Leader André Boisclair, and former premiers Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard all attended the event.

"I always found in him someone who was straight, loyal to ideas and to his idea of how things should be done," said Parizeau.

Bourassa was premiertwice — from 1970 to 1976, and again from 1985 to 1994.

He died of skin cancer on Oct. 2, 1996, in Montreal.

Montreal merchants oppose street's renaming

The City of Montreal's decision to rename Parc Avenue in honour of Bourassa, however,is causing a stir among residents.

The city's executive council voted Wednesday to rename the north-south artery after the late premier.

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Bourassa was an important figure in Quebec history and it wasfitting that Parc Avenue be renamed in his honour.

"It's a main artery of the city. It was in the heart of two ridings in which Mr. Bourassa has either lived in or represented: Mercier and Outremont. And it crosses René Lévesque Boulevard, so it's a good symbol to have Robert Bourassa and René Lévesque at a juncture that is important," Tremblay said on Wednesday.

But the proposed change is not sitting well with Parc Avenue merchants, especially those who have businesses named after the thoroughfare.

"We were not informed. Nobody consulted us," said Dimitri Galanis, the president of the Parc Avenue Merchants Association. "Now I don't know if there's much we can do, even if we agree or don't agree."

Some residents in the area are not pleased either."The name existed a hundred years ago, so I think [a change] would cause confusion," said Deborah Stein.

Changeneeds approval from council, province

Robert Bourassa Avenue will eventually extend from Jean-Talon Street in the north to St. Antoine Street in Old Montreal.

The change must be approved by city council and the provincial government, which could take up to a year.

Bourassamade history as the youngest premier in Quebec's history, taking office at age 36. He led the province through the October Crisis, and introduced the groundbreaking Bill 22, which made French Quebec's official language.

Helost the 1976 provincial election toLévesque, then leader of the Parti Québécois, but engineered an unlikely political comeback in the 1980s, becoming just the third man to regain the post.

In addition to Bourassa and Lévesque, there are statues of former premiers Honoré Mercier, Maurice Duplessis, Adélard Godbout and Jean Lesage outside Quebec's legislature.

With files from the Canadian Press