Georges-Émile Lapalme (1907-1985)
In his speech at the Liberal Party convention in 1958, where members were to choose a new leader to replace him, Georges-Émile Lapalme stated, "I agreed to be a victim of politics, but I never agreed to be an accessory of politics" (translation). Indeed, few political personalities in Quebec have had as rough a ride as Lapalme. First, he routinely endured disparaging remarks made by Maurice Duplessis, then by federal Liberals, and finally by members of his own party, in particular those that he and his close collaborators referred to as the "Committee of Ancestors" who spared no effort to thwart his attempts at democratizing the Liberal Party. Political scientist Vincent Lemieux stated that Lapalme experienced more failures than successes. It did not matter to Lapalme, who stood his ground, remaining frank and sincere. It was often said during the era that Lapalme was too honest to be in politics.
After completing studies in law at the Université de Montréal and exercising the profession of lawyer for a good ten years, Lapalme was elected federal MP in 1945 and 1949. The year after, he left Ottawa to become leader of the Liberal Party in Quebec. He bit the dust in the elections of 1952, but was elected in a by-election in 1953. He maintained his member's seat until he resigned in 1964. In the meantime, in 1958, he abandoned the leadership of the Liberal Party. Among his many achievements, the most important in his eyes were undoubtedly the creation in 1961 of both the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Délégation générale du Québec in Paris. For Lapalme, culture was the driving force behind politics. He stated, "In North America, the outreach of a population of five million inhabitants is nurtured by the vitality of its culture. The Americans will always be wealthier than us. They will always be able to out-build us. The same may be said of the Canadians. Without culture, nothing will remain of us" (translation).