1936: The Fall of Gouin & Other Quebec Curios

Part of “Shadows and Revolution”, 1900-1960

Paul Gouin, c. 1945, photographed by Conrad Poirier. Photograph courtesy of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec/P48,S1,P12381 Paul Gouin, c. 1945, photographed by Conrad Poirier. Photograph courtesy of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec/P48,S1,P12381

Paul Gouin and Maurice Duplessis’ collaboration would last less than a year. Gouin, the leader of the newly-created Action libérale nationale and Duplessis’ Conservatives collaborated for the 1935 provincial elections, making each electoral district a two-way race between either one of Gouin’s candidates or Duplessis’ candidates and the Liberal Party, lead by Alexandre Taschereau. While not merging the two parties, Gouin and Duplessis formed a strong opposition to the re-elected Taschereau government. Taschereau’s leadership was precarious, a majority with only five people separating the Liberals with the ALN and Conservatives’ combined efforts.

Duplessis urged Gouin almost from the start to combine forces with him, something that Gouin refused to do. Duplessis, the Leader of the Opposition, was the more powerful of the two, and led the charge to overthrow one of the major hurdles on his way to Premier: the incumbent Premier, Alexandre Taschereau. While the Taschereau government was abolishing rents that some seigneuries were still charging former censitaires (that somehow survived despite the abolition of the seigneurial system in the nineteenth century), Taschereau was also giving donors and members of the Liberal Party favours, using public funds to fund personal trips and personal expenses, and even giving money belonging to the provincial government to Taschereau’s nephew for personal reasons. Taschereau, exposed, resigned as party leader. Adélard Godbout, from whom we will be hearing from again very shortly, became party leader and had his first term as Premier, though short, calling an election less than two months after taking office.

A union between the ALN and the Conservatives seemed likely than ever at this point. Gouin, however, continued to refuse the coalition and did not seek reelection for the 1936 election. Duplessis marched forward, uniting what was left of Gouin’s supporters and his own party into a new party, the Union Nationale. Those who did not support the new party ran as independents and lost; the ALN was put on the back burner, making the 1936 provincial elections a race between two parties and two men: Maurice Duplessis and Adélard Godbout. The latter we will hear again from very shortly.

The people were ready for change. Duplessis’ Union Nationale obliterated the Liberal Party, winning seventy-six seats. Godbout’s Liberals were reduced to fourteen people. Duplessis had made it to the very top in less than ten years in politics.

1 Comment on 1936: The Fall of Gouin & Other Quebec Curios

  1. David D’Andrea // December 11, 2017 at 11:12 am //

    I love this series! These aren’t curios, they get to the heart of Quebec’s history, delivered in a way that’s perfect for people like me (i.e. interested anglos with the common case of techno-ADHD). Keep it up!

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