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Louis Robichaud, man of destiny

The Story

Liberal Louis Robichaud, an Acadian affectionately nicknamed P'tit Louis, has just won the New Brunswick provincial election in a surprise victory over the Conservative incumbent Hugh Flemming. Robichaud is the first Acadian to be elected to the position. Some deem him a "man of destiny," a little guy with big ambitions and a winning campaign who will improve the lot of Acadians and New Brunswickers alike. This CBC Radio report captures the excitement and events of that fateful election night.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: June 27, 1960
Guest(s): Hugh Flemming, Louis Robichaud
Reporter: Graham Allen, Norman DePoe
Duration: 4:44

Did You know?

• The final results of the 1960 election were 31 seats for the Liberals and 21 for the Conservatives.

• Louis Robichaud was only 34 years old at the time of this election.

• There had been one Acadian premier before Robichaud, but he was not elected. The first Acadian premier in New Brunswick was Pierre-Jean Veniot in 1923. After Liberal Premier W.E. Foster stepped down, Veniot was appointed premier. Veniot served for two years.

• Louis Robichaud was born in St-Antoine, N.B., on Oct. 21, 1925. Raising 10 children during the Depression era, the Robichaud family struggled to send Louis through school. He attended Sacré-Coeur University in Bathurst, N.B., and Laval University in Quebec City, and eventually became a practicing lawyer before he was elected MLA for Kent County, N.B., in 1952.

• Robichaud's ancestors settled in Acadia in 1609 and were exiled to Massachusetts in 1755.

• A true man of destiny, Robichaud signed his letter in the Sacré-Coeur University graduation time capsule "Louis J. Robichaud, Premier of New Brunswick."

• By 1952, French-speaking Acadians comprised more than one-third of New Brunswick's population. A disproportionate gap between French and non-French New Brunswickers in terms of government service, income and opportunity left many Acadians feeling frustrated, underrepresented and marginalized.

• The results of the 1960 election were surprising to many, Robichaud included. In the 1984 book Louis Robichaud: A Decade of Power, biographer Della Stanley had trouble pinpointing exactly why a seemingly popular premier like Flemming lost the election when he was largely expected to win. She does, however, offer several possible reasons:
-As an Acadian, Robichaud had won over a number of French voters.
-New Brunswickers liked Robichaud's plan to abolish the hospital premium tax.
-Robichaud had simply worked much harder in his campaigning than Flemming.

• Prior to Robichaud being elected in 1960, Flemming's Conservatives had been in power since 1952. Before that, the Liberal party had been in power since 1935. And although most New Brunswick politicians did have party affiliations before this, "it is not until 1935 that party lines and affiliations became stable. Announced platforms were not an integral part of the process" before 1935, according to the Government of New Brunswick's website.

• Robichaud was re-elected in 1963 and 1967. He was premier until 1970.

• During his 10 years in office, Robichaud's achievements included:
-Bringing in collective bargaining rights for the civil service.
-Introducing non-premium medicare services.
-Establishing a department of youth.
-Creating the Université de Moncton.
-Passing the Official Languages Act, making French an official language of New Brunswick.

• Although controversial at the time, Robichaud's Program of Equal Opportunity is now considered one of his greatest achievements. The program basically shifted control of services like health, education and social welfare from the hodgepodge of county councils across the province to a strong provincial government. This was meant to ensure that all New Brunswickers had equal access to these services.

• Louis Robichaud died at the age of 79 in January 2005.

• In a Summerside, P.E.I., Journal-Pioneer article following his death, a Fredericton man said of Robichaud: "I grew up in a small, poor village of New Brunswick and I went to school before the equal opportunity program was commenced and so I have first-hand knowledge of what it means to someone like me, what opportunities grew out of his program...I just wanted to say thank you to him for that."

• For more on Louis Robichaud and his impact on New Brunswick, please see the CBC Archives topic The 'Other Revolution': Louis Robichaud's New Brunswick.


N.B. Elections: Colourful Characters, Pivotal Points more