|Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Argenteuil|
|Preceded by||Zoël Saindon|
|Succeeded by||Régent L. Beaudet|
January 26, 1925|
|Died||February 9, 2004
Claude Ryan, CC GOQ (January 26, 1925 – February 9, 2004) was a Canadian politician and leader of the Parti libéral du Québec from 1978 to 1982. He was also the National Assembly of Quebec member for Argenteuil from 1979 to 1994.
Early life and career
Ryan was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Blandine (née Dorion) and Henri-Albert Ryan. He was the director of Le Devoir, a French-language newspaper available in the province of Quebec, from 1964 to 1978. During his tenure at the head of the editorial staff he became known for his probity and his mastery of contemporary political issues. His advice was sought by nearly all the provincial governments of Quebec, left or right, and by opposition parties.
Ryan garnered national attention during the 1970 October Crisis, when he was accused of participating in a plot to overthrow Robert Bourassa's recently elected government. Though the plot was later proven to be baseless, it served as a source of tension between Ryan and Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who Ryan suspected of having spread the rumour in an attempt to damage him politically.
Bourassa lost the 1976 election and his own MNA seat to the Parti Québécois under René Lévesque, in part due to the editorial position of Le Devoir under Ryan's stewardship. Subsequently, Ryan won the 1978 Quebec Liberal Party leadership election and served as Liberal leader from 1978 to 1982, where he opposed Premier Lévesque in two prominent campaigns (a referendum and an election).
Ryan led the victorious "No" side in the 1980 Quebec referendum on sovereignty which captured 60% of the vote. One particular turning point in the campaign was when Quebec PQ cabinet minister Lise Payette criticized Ryan's wife as an "Yvette", a stay-at-home character in a popular Quebec storybook, then further suggesting that all females who were against sovereignty were "Yvettes". As Ryan's wife was particularly active in social and charity circles, this attack outraged many women voters in that province, and many of them voted "No" in the referendum.
Nonetheless, Prime Minister Trudeau had been particularly critical in his memoirs of Ryan. Trudeau first criticized the performance of the Quebec Liberal party, was "drowning in a swamp of its own verbiage" during a televised National Assembly debate on sovereignty, in contrast to the Parti Québécois which had masterfully coordinated its speakers. Trudeau then stated that Ryan's initial campaign efforts of talking to small groups of people wasn't sufficient, which resulted in federal cabinet minister Jean Chrétien being sent in to help the federalist side. This helped to perpetuate the strained relationship between Ryan and Trudeau.
Ryan then ran an old-fashioned campaign in the 1981 provincial election, being generally TV-unfriendly as he refused to tailor sound bites for the evening news. The results of the vote saw Ryan's Liberals finish just 3% behind Lévesque's incumbent Parti Québécois in the popular vote but the latter won twice as many seats. Ryan was succeeded as MNA opposition leader and party chief by former premier, Robert Bourassa, who was making a political comeback. To date Ryan was the last non-interim Quebec Liberal Leader who did not serve as Premier.
Many in English Canada might remember him for his work against the establishment of a completely independent Quebec, separate from Canada. Those who followed his career, as a publisher and later as a politician, have noted that he also opposed the existing federal status quo, which he considered as too centralized, despite statements to the contrary by the then-Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
He retired from politics in September 1994 and died in Montreal, on February 9, 2004, at 4:20 a.m, of stomach cancer. In 1995, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2006, he was posthumously made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec.
After his death, he was the target of bitter insults by controversial sovereigntist film director Pierre Falardeau who said of him: “Claude Ryan était une pourriture et sa mort est une bonne chose de faite” (Claude Ryan was completely rotten and his death is quite a good thing done). Falardeau's comments met with general disapproval from all sides of the political spectrum.
- Politics of Quebec
- List of Quebec general elections
- List of Quebec leaders of the Opposition
- Timeline of Quebec history
- "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
Gérard D. Levesque
|Leader of the Opposition in Quebec
Gérard D. Levesque
|Minister of Education (Quebec)