Friday, 10 September 2010

A Campaign for Libraries by a Young Quebec Politician, the Legacy of Claude Bechard

Liberal politicians, provincial or federal, never get my vote--I always go to left of them--and if they're not from a riding around me, I don't pay too much attention to individuals. So I didn't know very much about Claude Bechard, the young star of the Jean Charest Liberals who died on the weekend of pancreatic cancer. A great loss, those who knew him said. And certainly to be snuffed out by that particular form of the disease at 41 is a great sadness.

Then among the appreciations of him and his work, I heard people from his district on the lower St. Lawrence talk about his passionate campaign to bring libraries to small towns. It seems that 20 were planned, and 10 have been opened. The picture above was taken in March 2009 at the opening of a new library in the town of Mont-Carmel, population 1,226 in 2006 in Kamouraska region. Bechard and Yvon Soucy, a member of the city council, were checking out the children's section. (Photo from Le Placoteux, the local newspaper.)

Okay, I thought, as I heard the story of his involvement: whatever else he might stand for, Bechard certainly had his priorities right in supporting libraries. Quebec lagged far behind the rest of North America when it came to libraries until the 1970s, but has played a pretty decent catch-up game, particularly in Montreal. What a shame that Bechard won't be around to help in the future, particularly in rural areas. Perhaps his example will inspire other champions of libraries, though.

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