Bourassa;

NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW  

614 words

Title:  Bourassa; by Michel Vastel, translated by Hubert 
Bauch; Macmillan Canada; Hardcover; 244 pages; $27.95

Reviewer: A.T.Connellan; "This book is about a provincial 
leader doing his best to represent the people he serves. 
An admirable man who strongly desired to remain a 
Canadian. We should have all known him better." 

Bourassa; A remarkable Canadian
     
Whether Canadians outside of Quebec like it or not it is 
Robert Bourassa's hand on the throttle of the Confederation 
Train taking us into the 21st century. It is he who will 
dictate the agenda for the Quebec Referendum, the response 
of the other Provinces, of the Federal Government, and 
ultimately define the shape of the new Canada. 
        
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a 
riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Winston 
Churchill's 1939 reference might well apply to Robert 
Bourassa, the Quebec Prime Minister, about whom Canadians 
know virtually nothing. 
        
However politicians are prisoners of their past, their 
beliefs, and of the philosophy and policies of the Party. If 
you want to know where they are going, look at where they've 
been, it's a straight path. Michel Vastel [ who dedicated 
this book to "Robert Bourassa, a Quebecois" ] explores 
that path with us in a non-critical, straightforward 
manner, fromthe inside out.
      
The product of a bi-lingual home, Bourassa was educated at 
College Brebeuf and, later, on scholarships and bursaries, 
in law at the University of Montreal, in economics at 
Oxford, and in tax law at Harvard. 

In and around, and beyond 
these dry facts, the author paints a vivid picture of the 
development of the man who was to become the youngest 
government leader in Quebec'shistory. Who would inspire 
extra-ordinary loyalty among his associates, frustrate 
Pierre Trudeau to distraction, forge a mutually admiring 
relationship with Brian Mulroney, earn the grudging respect 
of the other provincial premiers, and engender on the part 
of the Quebec electorate a continuing protective support. 
       
The political education and development of Robert Bourassa 
is studded with the names of French president Charles de 
Gaulle, Quebec premiers Rene Levesque, Daniel Johnson 
and, politicians Gilles Loiselle, Claude Morin and 
Gilles Remillard. His mentors included former premier Jean 
Lesage, and Father George-Henri Levesque, the revered father 
of Quebec social science. 
        
Michel Vastel relates in fascinating detail how Bourassa's 
personal and political courage was forged by time in 
opposition and in power, electoral successes and failures, 
and most unhappily of all his battle with cancer. Treatment 
 was delayed because of his refusal to leave his post during 
the "Mohawk Crisis". The consequences of that dedication 
have yet to be measured. 
        
In 1976 California's Stanford Research Institute suggested 
"The question that should be asked, is not if Quebec 
will separate from Canada, but how, to what extent, and 
when." In the spring of 1987 Richard Hatfield said "I 
believe that independence can only come about in Quebec if 
it is imposed on Quebeckers by the rest of Canada" 

The Epilogue of this book postulates that statement as a 
prophesy. The author describes the various scenarios in 
restructuring the Quebec-Canada make-up. He sets out the 
financial, territorial, and constitutional possibilities. 
        
Michel Vastel's qualifications are well established, French 
born he has resided in Canada since 1970. Educatedin history 
and journalism at the University of Lille, he is 
parliamentary correspondent for a number of Quebec newspapers 
and is the author of the controversial book on Pierre 
Trudeau,"The Outsider". Mr. Vastel is also seen and heard 
on CTV and CBC. 
        
The extensive Notes and References section bears witness 
to the thorough research that supports this book, and his crisp 
writing style makes it an easy read. This is recommended 
reading for Canadians who care about their country.Canadians 
who are above and beyond the mindless mutterings 
about cornflake boxes, etc. 
        
This book is about a provincial leader doing his best 
to represent the people he serves. An admirable man who 
strongly desired to remain a Canadian. We should all get 
to know him better.  


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