Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
September 2005

Documents of Quebec History / Documents de l'histoire du Québec


The Godbout Programme


[This document dates from 1940. For the precise citation, see the end of the text]


Yesterday's Speech from the Throne at the opening of the new Quebec Assembly reflects the ambition of a new Government to do things in its own way and to undo the works of its predecessor where these are deemed to have been faulty. In one respect the Government’s programme sets a new milestone in the history of the province, the granting of the provincial suffrage to women. This is to be done under a Government bill, whose passage may be regarded as assured, though the vote is likely to cut across party lines. The formal promise of the franchise crowns a long campaign with victory and places this province in line with other progressive political entities. The most noteworthy of the other intimation has to do with taxation and it is distinctly regrettable that the new Administration considers that imposition of new levies as indispensable. The promise that they will be equitably distributed is more or less consoling but new provincial taxation at this time is undesirable. No doubt the Government so considers it and is resorting to it only under the pressure of necessity. The Speech from the Throne states that capital expenditures are to be held down to a minimum, that an effort is to be made to pay unemployment relief out of ordinary revenue and that a report on the state of the finances of the province will be forthcoming. It may be assumed that the Government’s decision to impose new taxation has this origin in this report; indeed it is the heavy load of debt accumulated through recent years which is identified in the Speech from the Throne itself as necessitating increased revenue.


The references to the recent death of Lord Tweedsmuir and to the high qualities of the Hon. E. L. Patenaude, the recently retired Lieutenant-Governor, are timely and finely phrased, as is the expression of pride in the share which Quebec has shouldered as an important province of a belligerent country. Agricultural production is to be encouraged as a contribution to the national war effort. The legislative programme, apart from the matters that have been mentioned, is unusually comprehensive. The Fair Wage Act is to be replaced by a Minimum Wage Law, seigniorial rents payable by farmers are to be abolished, education is to be encouraged and public health measures are to be strengthened. The provincial financial year is to be altered to conform with that of the Dominion and the Province of Ontario as a means of facilitating transactions among the three governments, a very desirable step, while of outstanding importance is the forthcoming amendment to the Natural Resources and Securities Acts to remove the obstacles which confront outside capital when seeking investment in this province, particularly in the mining areas. Along this same line is projected legislation to encourage new industries and to facilitate forest exploitation in the interests of the working classes, small local industries, and the settler and the farmer. The statement that necessary steps will be taken to assure a more general and less costly distribution of electricity will be greeted with considerably more reserve by the investing public, as will the promise of strengthening social legislation by setting up a labor council. Precisely what is implied by this is not indicated and criticism must be withheld until details are available. On the other hand, no fault can be found with the plan to improve the marketing of fish and otherwise to encourage the fishing industry, or the project of grouping the most promising settlers in suitable colonization areas in proximity to existing parishes.


One paragraph in the Speech from the Throne is particularly significant. The Duplessis Government’s quarrel with the Dominion was based largely upon unemployment relief differences. The present Government affirms its determination to overcome unemployment in the cities as far as possible, and to that end it “will co-operate more closely with Dominion authorities without prejudicing provincial autonomy.” For those whom the Godbout Government has replaced, this statement is full, very full indeed, of meaning.


[Return to the page on the right to vote for women]

Source: “The Godbout programme.” The Gazette, February 21, 1940, p. 8. Editorial transcribed by Christina Duong. Revision by Claude Bélanger.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College