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Obituary: Firebrand populist was an emblem of rural Catholic Quebec Add to ...

The other night on his home territory of Rouyn somebody in the audience beat him to the next: croche (which translates roughly as crooked).

The audience and everybody on the dais – most of whom had heard the routine at least half a dozen times – broke up.

He’s a great warm-up act, and he has been first speaker wherever he appears, but he is difficult to follow. Inevitably the poor soul on after him feels obliged to apologize for his style.

At another rally Sunday, Mr. Samson noted that a journalist had complained about the number of times he’d heard the bear-trap analogy.

Well, he said, priests had been preaching the gospel for 2,000 years and there were still some poor souls who hadn’t understood.

However, he would do his best.


Quebec columnist William Johnson writing on Sept. 3, 1980:

Mr. Samson, the populist from Rouyn-Noranda, yesterday abandoned his long struggle to win Quebec to Social Credit and announced that he will finish off his term in the National Assembly as a Liberal. The spring referendum campaign, in which he fought shoulder to shoulder with Claude Ryan against sovereignty-association, cemented ties between him and the Liberal leader. Mr. Samson, a self-made man and a stump orator, was a perfect foil with his earthy jokes and sarcasms for the more cerebral orations of Mr. Ryan.

With Camil Samson’s defection an era ends. He was a protégé of Real Caouette and a fervent apostle of Social Credit. He broke with his leader in 1970 when he launched the provincial wing of Social Credit and took 12 seats in the 1970 Quebec elections.

He won his own seat in every election since, though in 1973 his party only elected one other member, and in 1976 Mr. Samson was alone.

He looked for alliances with such other right-of-centre politicians as Pierre Se vigny, and changed the name of the party several times, most recently to Creditistes-Democrats.

He must have seen the handwriting on the wall: In today’s Quebec, politics are so polarized around the PQ that there is really only room for one opposition party.

Editor's note: While there are secondary sources who reported  that Mr. Samson once said "the present government has taken us to the edge of the abyss. Elect me, and I will take you a step forward,” there are others who suspect he did not. The quote has been removed from this version after publication.


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