Jean Lapierre was a gentleman. Quebec and Canada have lost an immense talent, and one of our best political analysts.
The information available at this time is that he and four family members were en route to the Iles de la Madeleine to attend his father’s funeral. The plane crashed in bad weather. All seven people onboard have passed.
The plane had departed St. Hubert and attempted to land on the islands in very poor weather. The plane bounced off the runway and then broke up.
Quebec media in general and the political community of the entire nation are in shock. Just yesterday, Lapierre announced his father had passed after a long struggle with Parkinson’s.
Jean was an expert commentator; he lived and breathed politics, and unlike many politicians said precisely what he was thinking, unafraid of any potential criticism. He was first elected at the young age of 23 to represent Shefford and fought on the side of the Trudeau Liberals in the 1980 Referendum. He’d remain as Shefford’s Liberal MP until 1990 when he left the party in the wake of the Meech Lake Accord’s failure. He then helped to found the Bloc Québécois, though in his own words he described himself as soft nationalist, wanting a level playing field for Quebec. Disillusioned, he would later leave the Bloc and federal politics altogether to begin a successful career in broadcasting.
Most people would have been happy with just that, but Jean Lapierre was not most people. He was driven, ambitious and became a voice of thoughtful consideration and conscience. He would return to federal politics in the cabinet of Paul Martin, to whom he was fiercely loyal. Lapierre would subsequently become transport minister before retiring from politics for a second time in 2007 to go back to broadcasting.
In my time working as a chase producer for CJAD I often spoke with Jean to arrange interviews. He had two regular slots on CJAD, one in the morning and again in the afternoon, and was as comfortable and effective discussing the spectrum of Canadian politics in English as in French. We was a busy man, constantly working. I only met him once, but made sure to congratulate him for his work in Chantal Hébert’s seminal work on the 1995 Quebec Referendum, The Morning After.
The first impression he made on me was that, unlike many other pundits and political analysts, he didn’t seem full of himself. He answered his own phone, he was always keen to help out with an interview or discussion. He rarely said no, unless it was to spend time with his family. He was always polite, respectful and kind when dealing with the chase producers, the lowest part of the broadcasting totem poll. I can’t emphasize this point enough: in two arenas dominated by massive, in most cases over-inflated egos, Jean was refreshingly humble and down-to-Earth. The second impression he made was that he was one of the few political analysts who could dissect the political arenas of Canada, Quebec and Montreal with equal parts expertise, humour and style. He reminded me of how politics could be fun, or at least how to see what was amusing in our unique type of politics. He was witty, insightful, sharp and above all else, interesting. I could listen to Jean Lapierre discuss the politics of Canada, Quebec and/or Montreal, in either language, and always come out informed, engaged, and more often than not inspired.
What happened to him, to his family, is an unspeakable tragedy.
Adieu Jean, on se souviendra.