MONTREAL – Although Jacques Parizeau was politically divisive, he was remembered Tuesday by business leaders as an architect of Quebec’s modern economy, having played a key role in building some of its most significant financial institutions.
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Parizeau later advised Liberal and Union Nationale premiers in the 1960s to nationalize Hydro-Quebec and helped create the Quebec Pension Plan.
Parizeau, an economist who served as finance minister before becoming premier, also helped establish investment agencies SGF and Investissement Quebec, the Quebec Stock Savings Plan and in 1965, the Caisse de depot.
The provincial pension fund manager stood apart in that it had a portfolio of equities, real estate and cash, a diversification Parizeau pushed for, while the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was restricted at the time to investing in fixed assets like bonds.
It was not until 25 years later that the CPPIB was allowed to diversify its investments.
“By daring to achieve what few could even imagine at the time, he innovated and built a beacon of modern Quebec,” said Caisse CEO Michael Sabia.
Parizeau was so vital in helping create Caisse that Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday its Montreal headquarters will be renamed after him.
Parizeau also gave the green light in 1983 for Quebec’s largest labour union to establish the Solidarity Fund that invested in Quebec businesses.
“For the first time in the history of Quebec, we had a strong private sector economy and Jacques Parizeau is responsible for that,” said Michel Nadeau, a former chief investment officer at Caisse.
Billionaire investor Stephen Jarislowsky said while he vehemently disagreed with Parizeau’s separatist aspirations, he agreed with his economic vision, which he described as forward-thinking.
“I had pleasant and intelligent conversations with him on the economy and we weren’t far apart,” Jarislowsky said. “We were also not far apart on the kind of measures to be taken.”
Jean Chretien, who served as Canadian finance minister in the late 1970s while Parizeau presided over the same portfolio in Quebec, said while the two disagreed on many issues, they had a very cordial and professional relationship.
“He was a man who had strong views and expressed them very forcefully and it’s good to have that type of people in a democratic society,” said the former Liberal prime minister.
Parizeau died Monday night. He was 84.
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