BirthJuly 14, 1933 in Montréal
DeathOctober 02, 1996 in Montréal
Party LeaderJanuary 17, 1970 to December 14, 1976
October 15, 1983 to December 14, 1993
PremierMay 12, 1970 to November 25, 1976
December 12, 1985 to January 11, 1994
Born in Montréal in 1933, Robert Bourassa was first admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1957 before earning a Master’s degree in Political and Economic Science from Oxford University in England and a Master’s degree in Finance and Financial Law from Harvard University in 1960.
With his victory in the 1970 Quebec Liberal Party leadership race, he became Quebec’s youngest premier. The Bourassa Liberal government went on to adopt several social measures, such as the establishment of health insurance in 1970 and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1975. It also instated French as the official language of Quebec in 1974.
In April 1971, while highlighting the first anniversary of his election, Bourassa unveiled the “project of the century”: the development of the world’s largest hydroelectric complex in James Bay, an enormous site that would span 350,000 km2, or twice the size of France. The environmental, financial, technical, and political challenges were immense, nearly excessive. The Parti Québécois denounced the project and proposed abandoning hydroelectric development in favour of nuclear power stations. However, Bourassa firmly believed in the potential of the clean, renewable energy that hydroelectricity could provide and pushed forward.
Following his 1976 defeat against René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois, Robert Bourassa dedicated himself to university teaching. His subsequent reprisal of the role Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in October 1983 is considered one of the most pivotal returns to office in Quebec history. He would go on to lead his party to victory in the 1985 general election. Against a backdrop of a flagging economy and the dramatic rise of public debt, the second Bourassa government adopted an austere fiscal policy. At the same time, the Premier delved into the heart of constitutional negotiations on the status of Quebec.
Bourassa would resign from his roles as Premier of Quebec and Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in September 1993, citing health reasons. He died three years later, on October 2, 1996, in Montréal.