THE TRAGEDY of October seemed even more ironic because April 29 had brought unrestrained optimism to English Canada, for as the Toronto Globe and Mail expressed it: "the Province of Quebec is alive and well in Canada." Seldom, if ever, had a provincial election been so carefully watched; seldom, if ever, had a provincial election such national implications. And never had the results been as overwhelmingly approved outside a province as was Robert Bourassa's Liberal victory in the province of Quebec. Yet within six months the Canadian army had to be called in at the request of the young premier to prevent uncontrollable civil disorder, and some Québécois speculated on the collapse of the new government.
By the beginning of 1970 the campaign for the succession to Jean Lesage as leader of the Liberal party of Quebec was nearing its end, with a convention scheduled for Quebec City on January 16-17. The style and strategy of the three contenders were strikingly different, their only common feature being a commitment to a resolution of Quebec's problems within a federal system. Pierre Laporte, the forty-eight-year-old veteran of a journalists' crusade against Maurice Duplessis and a member of the Lesage administration, counted on his popularity in the National Assembly. Claude Wagner, the forty-four-year-old law and order man of the Lesage régime, banked heavily on his undoubted popularity among a people tired of vandalism and crime, terror and violence. While both men emphasized the need for economic development, the thrust of Mr Wagner's appeal was that "the key to economic progress is political stability and social peace, respect of the law and individual liberties," while Mr Laporte called for a "competent society with a soul," a "society of participation" which would make "authority more efficient and more humane."