NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW
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.
Back to Non Fiction Book Reviews index
Back to Home page