Adélard
Godbout

Birth

24 September 1892 in Québec

Death

18 September 1956 in Montréal

Party leader

11 June 1936 to 22 July 1949

Prime minister

08 November 1939 to 30 August 1944

Born at Saint-Ēloi on September 24, 1892, Adélard Godbout was an agronomist and professor at the agricultural school in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière from 1918 to 1930. An ardent defender of farmers’ rights and of  the importance of education in the domain, his legacy was recognized when in 2009 the main edifice of the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire (ITA) of the La Pocatière campus was named the Pavillon Adélard-Godbout.

He was elected Liberal Member of the National Assembly for L’Islet in 1929.

Due to his profound convictions and an extraordinary tenacity, he launched Quebec on the road to modernization in several areas. Adélard Godbout gave the right to vote to Quebec women in 1940, despite a strong opposition from conservative quarters. He also acted in the face of the most flagrant abuses committed against consumers by the Montreal Light, Heat & Power company, the electrical network in the province’s metropolis. By nationalizing the powerful company whose business practices had elicited general discontent for decades, Godbout put electricity at the service of people and progress.

By creating the Quebec hydroelectricity commission on April 14, 1944 to manage the four hydroelectricity plants of Montreal, Light Heat & Power, Godbout gave birth to Hydro-Québec, a crown jewel of Quebec patrimony. In doing so, Adélard Godbout set Quebec on the path of a long march to allow Quebec to figure among the most important producers of clean energy in the world today. Moreover, the provision of free education, accompanied by the obligation to attend school until the age of 16, and the adoption of a new labour code which recognized the rights to unionization showed the importance of the role his government would play in helping cement the Quiet Revolution.

And as much as history of the 20th century would prove him right in retrospect to his efforts to help our Allies in Europe during the Second World War, a notoriously isolationist Quebec electorate would not forgive him for supporting Conscription as promoted by Ottawa and seconded by the results of a pan-Canadian plebiscite, and so his government fell in the 1948 general provincial election. Defeated by his courageous but unpopular stand, Adélard Godbout resigned as party leader shortly thereafter. 

He died in Montreal on September 18, 1956, at the age of 63.