Jules-André Brillant, businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist (born 30 July 1888 in Assemetquahan, QC; died 11 May 1973 in Mont-Joli, QC).
Jules-André Brillant, businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist (born 30 July 1888 in Assemetquahan, QC; died 11 May 1973 in Mont-Joli, QC). Brillant was the founder of Compagnie de Pouvoir du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Québec-Téléphone (today TELUS Québec, a subsidiary of TELUS) and the stations CJBR and CJBR-TV.
Childhood and Early Career
Jules-André Brillant, son of Joseph Brillant and Rose Raîche, was born on 30 July 1888 at the Assemetquahan Mission (now Routhierville) in the Matapédia Valley. He spent part of his childhood in Saint-Octave de Métis and completed a business course at the Université Saint-Joseph de Memramcook (now Université de Moncton) in New Brunswick. In 1907, he was hired as a junior clerk at the National Bank of Canada in Beauceville. He worked there for a year before he was tasked with opening a branch in Matane.
In January 1910, a promotion led him to Amqui, where he worked as an assistant manager before he fell ill with a pulmonary illness. After a year of convalescence, he questioned his career path, resigned from his position and left sedentary life behind him. On 26 July 1911, the Compagnie d’électricité d’Amqui hired him to sell company shares. In April 1913, he became company manager and director.
Electricity and Telephone
Under his leadership, the company spread throughout the Matapédia Valley, reaching its production limits. In search of capital, he moved to Rimouski in 1920. There he discovered that the needs in
In the meantime, in 1927 he bought the Compagnie de Téléphone National and founded the Corporation de Téléphone et de pouvoir du Québec, which in 1955 became Québec-Téléphone. Finally, Brillant waited until 1932 and took advantage of the difficulties the US owners found themselves in after the Crash of 1929 and bought back the Compagnie de Pouvoir du Bas-Saint-Laurent.
The Brillant Empire
Brillant also invested in other economic sectors in the region. In 1929, he bought the Compagnie de navigation Rimouski Saguenay limitée in
In 1923, he also became interested in the media sector. That year, he became the owner of the Progrès du Golfe,
Political Power and Philanthropy
Brillant was the main political organizer in the region for the provincial Liberal Party (see Parti libéral du Québec) and also at the federal level. Thanks to his network of contacts, he had influence on the regional political class, namely in the control he had in patronage practices and partisan appointments. He was also a major philanthropist in
Brillant also held an important role in the world of finance, sitting on boards of directors and holding executive positions in various financial institutions and businesses. Most notable among them were Sun Trust, the Banque Provinciale du Canada, the Alliance Nationale, a mutual life insurance company, the Dominion Steel & Coal Corporation Ltd. (DOSCO) and the Dominion Coal Company Ltd. During the Second World War, he was director of defence communications, then coordinator of the reconstruction committee in Ottawa. From 1939 to 1942, he was director of the Banque centrale d’hypothèque and from 1939 to 1945, he was president of the Conseil d’orientation économique du Québec.
In the early 1960s, the Brillant empire began to slowly break apart. His electrical company was bought out by the provincial government as part of electricity nationalization in 1963 (see Hydro-Québec, Electric Utilities). Brillant’s sons, who began managing the family assets after his retirement, did not appear to have inherited his talents. In 1966,
Awards and Distinctions
Honorary Doctorate in Law, Collège Saint-Joseph de Memramcook,
Commander of the Order of the
Honorary Doctorate in Business, Université de Montréal, Québec (1943)
Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (1949)
Honorary Colonel, Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent (1951)
Knight of the Order of Malta of Canada (1954)
Honorary Doctorate in Social Science, Collège Saint-Louis, New Brunswick (1955)
Honorary Doctorate in Business, Université de Moncton, New Brunswick (1967)
Denis Castonguay, “Jules-André Brillant : portrait d’un bâtisseur”, CBC, November 7, 2012.
Jean-Charles Fortin and Antonio Lechasseur, Histoire du Bas-Saint-Laurent (Québec: Institut québécois de recherche sur la culture, 1993).
Paul Larocque, dir., Rimouski depuis des origines (Rimouski : Société d’histoire du Bas-Saint-Laurent, 2006).
Nive Voisine, “Jules-A. Brillant (1888-1973)”, L'Estuaire, no. 69 (June 2009): 23-26.
Yves Tremblay, Du notable et de l’homme d’affaires. L’élite économique de Rimouski, 1890-1960 (Rimouski: Corporation Rimouski 1696-1996, 1996).