Born during the Great Depression, the Union Nationale at first preached social, economic and political reform. It was defeated by the Liberal Party in 1939, after a campaign in which federal Liberals in Québec argued that they were the ones to protect French Canadians from CONSCRIPTION. The Union Nationale under Duplessis was elected again in 1944, having accused the Liberals, provincial and federal, of betraying Québec's rights. This nationalistic emphasis was to be characteristic of the party thereafter. The Union Nationale was completely dominated by Duplessis until his death in September 1959; it was then led by Paul SAUVÉ until his death less than 4 months later. It lost the 1960 election and has held power only once since then (1966-70). The death in 1968 of its leader, Daniel JOHNSON, was a heavy blow, and the government of the new leader, J. Jacques BERTRAND, was defeated by a resurgent Liberal Party under Robert BOURASSA in 1970. Supplanted by the PARTI QUÉBÉCOIS as the nationalist party, the UN never won more than 20% of the vote in subsequent elections. Although still in existence to 1988, the party is no longer a political force in Québec: in the 1985 election it captured less than 1% of the vote.
The Union Nationale won its major support from rural voters, from small- and medium-scale businessmen and from unorganized labour. Anglophone voters distrusted the party and it had greater success in Québec City than in Montréal. During the 1940s and 1950s, the size of its electoral funding, most of it donated by business, gave it a significant advantage over the Liberal opposition. This disappeared after the party's defeat in 1960 and the reform of electoral practices in Québec.
See also FRENCH CANADIAN NATIONALISM.
Author VINCENT LEMIEUX