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Documents in Quebec History


Last revised:
23 August 2000

Documents on Public Immorality in Quebec in the Duplessis Era / Documents sur l'immoralité publique sous Duplessis [1956]

Editorial, Ottawa Citizen, August 8, 1956

A team of Roman Catholic clergymen-professors at Laval University has given leadership of a high order in urging a greater degree of political morality on the part of both the public and politicians. Though the clergymen have examined Quebec politics alone, their strictures could be applied at least in some measure to Canada as a whole. While some fraudulent practices of which the clergymen speak - false oaths, impersonation, bribery of election officials and corruption of voters - are not common across Canada, other wholly unethical actions do occur widely.

Indirect bribery, in the sense of promising the voters of certain public works or tax cuts out of their own money at election time is accepted as normal. Efforts by politicians to blacken their opponents' reputations by false innuendoes are common, not only in the provinces but in the Federal Parliament. Misrepresentation of the real issues by myths is, of course, almost universal. A politician without a straw man to knock down would feel himself virtually condemned to silence. But as the electorate has grown more mature, bluntly corrupt practices have tended to disappear. Election campaigns today in most of Canada are undoubtedly more temperate, honest and fair than they were even 40 years ago. Certainly, there is in most parts of the country nothing as crude as the methods revealed by the two Laval men. They point out that votes were bought outright, roofs repaired free of charge, hospital bills paid, and there was at the last Quebec election "a parade of gifts such as refrigerators and television sets". In one case a local curé advised his parishioners to vote for the party in power, on the grounds that "if you don't we'll get nothing".

It is for the electorate itself to reform these practices, with the churches, homes and schools exercising a strong influence. The leadership given by the Laval professors should prove inspiring, and deserves the public's thanks. Corrupt election practices in a democracy are not new; they represent a continuing challenge to be met by public vigilance and education. In courageously taking up the challenge, the Laval men have served the public well.