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New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

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The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

Laurier and Quebec: A Privileged Political Relationship

At the turn of the 20th century Sir Wilfrid LAURIER and the Liberal Party effected one of the most important political transformations in the history of Canada – the increasing support of Quebec for the federal Liberal Party: 

“In the province of Quebec… Laurier shrewdly managed to gather under his protective wing the moderate Conservatives of the school of Sir George-Étienne Cartier*. The likes of Arthur Dansereau, [Sir Joseph-Adolphe] Chapleau, and Joseph-Israël Tarte* were notable in this regard. The conquest of Conservative Quebec, at this stage, was due to Laurier more than anyone else.”

Laurier also intervened in provincial affairs, as shown in the following excerpt from the biography of Félix-Gabriel MARCHAND, leader of the Liberal Party in Quebec and a future premier. Laurier’s popularity and the organizational efficiency of the federal Liberals contributed to Marchand’s victory in the provincial election of 1897:

“Laurier’s popularity was at its zenith and his victory in the federal election of 23 June 1896 augured well for Marchand. Eager to take full advantage of the Liberal sweep, he went around the province in the autumn of 1896 and on 28 November held a great rally of Liberal party organizers in Montreal. Laurier’s men in fact pulled the strings, and the young guard fiercely carried on the fight. As campaign manager, Dandurand set up Liberal clubs throughout the province and maintained contact between Laurier and Marchand. From his retreat at Spencer Wood, Chapleau worked in vain for a coalition of the Bleus and the Rouges – clearly excluding the ultramontanes – to be led by his friend Guillaume-Alphonse Nantel*. The election campaign of the spring of 1897 degenerated into a battle between Laurier and ‘the cabinet of tax-gatherers’ – the label popularly stuck on the Conservative government – with Marchand wielding little influence over its outcome. On 11 May the Liberals won and on the 24th Marchand was sworn in as premier.

“Carried into power on Laurier’s popularity, at a time when the prime minister leaned towards currying favour with the Catholic bishops and reassuring the electorate, Marchand did not have free rein in forming his cabinet. Clearly, where the provincial cabinet was concerned, Laurier had the upper hand.”

The following excerpt from the biography of the lawyer and politician Simon-Napoléon PARENT provides another example of Laurier’s intervention in the province’s political affairs:

“Marchand’s death on 25 Sept. 1900 created a difficult problem of succession. There were many aspirants to the premiership. Called on to decide, Laurier … chose Parent, who had given him his undying loyalty and admiration.”

The Liberal leader’s privileged relationship with Quebec had allowed him, among other things, to easily win the federal elections of 1896, 1900, 1904, and 1908. Yet, idolized though he may have been by some, Laurier had his detractors. The Ligue Nationaliste Canadienne brought together a few of them [see Olivar ASSELIN]. This pressure group demanded, for one thing, greater autonomy for Canada in relation to Great Britain and, furthermore, greater powers for the provinces in relation to the federal government. The organization defied Laurier head-on and took aim at the government of Lomer GOUIN, premier of Quebec and Laurier’s ally. Here is an excerpt from his biography: 

“The Ligue Nationaliste Canadienne … had at first attacked Laurier's policies. But it also had concerns at the provincial level, so that, especially from 1907, … the Nationalistes showed the Gouin government no mercy.”


To learn more about relations between Laurier and the province of Quebec, we invite you to consult the following lists of biographies.


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