Former premier Jacques Parizeau remembered as a ‘great builder’ of Quebec

MONTREAL — Former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau will have a state funeral and the province will rename the Caisse de depot’s headquarters after him, Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday.

Funeral details will be announced later but he indicated Parizeau left behind very detailed instructions for his last rites.

Parizeau’s longtime wife, Lisette Lapointe, announced the death on her Facebook page Monday night, saying the sovereigntist icon had passed away after a “titanic fight” with an undisclosed illness.

The premier also paid tribute to Parizeau, calling him a “very sincere and honest man, deeply convinced of his own ideas.”

The depiction of Parizeau, 84, as the man who nearly severed Quebec from Canada with the 1995 sovereignty referendum was not what he should only be remembered for, he said.

He added his voice to those calling Parizeau one of the “great builders of the Quiet Revolution” who helped establish institutions like the Caisse de Depot, the province’s pension-fund manager, which benefits all Quebecers.

“Today, we have to rise above that level, all of us, and remember him for what he gave: the part of his life he gave to Quebec and Quebecers,” Couillard said. “I don’t think he himself would like celebrations or memories that are going to be told today to be coloured by partisanship. This is not the day for that.”

People of all political stripes weighed in with glowing tributes.

Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau said the entire province is in mourning following the death of the man who held that same job between 1988 and 1996.

“He was a man of passion,” Peladeau said. “He really believed in what he considered the best way for Quebec to enrich itself — and that was Quebec independence.

“He was a nice mix, and a very effective one, of passion and rationality.”

Former adviser Jean-Francois Lisee took to social media to write that a “giant has passed away.”

“There is immense grief,” Lisee, now a Parti Quebecois member of the legislature, said on Twitter.

“His ideas light the way for the future.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among several federal and provincial politicians who posted tweets to express their sympathy.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen & I extend our deepest condolences to the family & friends of former premier Jacques Parizeau,” Harper wrote. 

Longtime Quebec political commentator Josee Legault called Parizeau “the last of the premiers.”

“May you finally rest in peace,” she said.

Parizeau was finance minister for eight years under Rene Levesque before leaving the PQ in 1984 over his boss’s decision to shelve the sovereignty option.

Parizeau returned as PQ leader in 1988 before becoming premier in the 1994 election and paving the way for the independence referendum that eventually led to his political resignation following the Yes side’s narrow defeat.

His grandson said his grandfather’s teachings will never leave him.

“My grandfather was an incredible man,” said Hadrien Parizeau. “He taught me a lot. The advice he gave me during unforgettable times with him will continue to guide me forever.

“Thanks granddad.”

The head of a prominent sovereigntist group called Parizeau a man of principle and conviction and a statesman in the true sense of the word.

“Jacques Parizeau was no ordinary politician,” said Maxime Laporte, leader of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal.

“He was an extraordinary politician because his motivation was of an extraordinary nature.

“He was without a shadow of a doubt one of the most important builders of modern Quebec.”

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press