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PQ’s first agriculture minister Jean Garon, 76

Jean Garon, the lawyer and founding Parti Quebecois member who served as Rene Levesque’s first minister of agriculture, died on Canada Day at age 76.

Garon, the MNA for the provincial riding of Levis from 1976 to 1998 and mayor of Levis from 1998 to 2005, died Tuesday at l’Hotel‑Dieu de Levis, the PQ said in a statement Wednesday. Quebec media reported the cause of death as cardiac arrest.

Garon, a founding member of the PQ in 1968, was a lawyer and Laval law professor when he first ran unsuccessfully for the party in the Charlevoix riding in 1973. In 1976 he won his first of five consecutive elections in the Levis riding, now held by CAQ MNA Christian Dube.

Then-premier Rene Levesque named Garon as minister of agriculture in November 1976. Garon stayed with the ministry after its expansion into the ministry of agriculture, food and fisheries (MAPAQ) in 1979, through to 1985.

In 1985, after Levesque’s exit, Garon ran unsuccessfully for the PQ leadership, coming in third behind Pierre Marc Johnson, who succeeded Levesque as premier, and Pauline Marois, who later led a minority PQ government from 2012 until April this year.

PQ MNA Francois Gendron, who served as Marois’ agriculture minister and earlier alongside Garon in the Levesque government, on Wednesday described Garon as “an untiring worker who accomplished great things for Quebec and its agriculture.”

The PQ on Wednesday credited Garon for a number of reforms while in the ag portfolio, particularly the passage of the province’s law for protection of agricultural land and activities (PLTAAQ) in 1978.

Garon’s bill, the PQ said, assured the much-sought-after preservation of Quebec’s farmland against speculation and urban sprawl and allowed for the development of sustainable agriculture in the province.

Garon, Gendron said, always worked with “a great devotion” for Quebec’s farmers and fishers, and “brought our agriculture out of stagnation and allowed it to enter into modernity.”

Interim PQ leader Stephane Bedard described Garon as a “great communicator” who made important contributions to Quebec’s sovereigntist movement and left an “immense” legacy both in agriculture and Quebec politics.

Marcel Groleau, president of the province’s Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), said Wednesday in the UPA journal La terre de chez nous that the role of an agriculture minister was to defend the ag sector’s priorities to cabinet, and the sector “could not have had a better defender” than Garon.

Garon went on to serve as education minister from 1994 to 1996 under then-premier Jacques Parizeau, and opted not to seek re-election in 1998, instead moving to municipal politics as mayor of Levis until his defeat in 2005.

Garon later wrote for the monthly magazine La vie agricole from 2009 on, and published a memoir, Pour tout vous dire, last year.

Details for a funeral for Garon haven’t yet been announced. — Network


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