Thursday, February 25

Robert Dean, a strong advocate of full employment

The death of Robert Dean marks the departure of one of those progressive Anglophones from the Quiet Revolution who identified and fully shared the nationalist and social democratic aspirations of Quebecers. A family man and union leader within the FTQ, it is his political commitment, as Member of Parliament and Minister of René Lévesque’s government, from 1981 to 1985, that I want to testify today.

The words full-employment alone sum up the ideal that has inhabited him during his political life. It should be remembered that the issues facing the labor market of the 1980s were very different from those of today. While we are currently facing a labor shortage, in 1982, the unemployment rate in Quebec hit a sad record of 16% for that decade.

Robert Dean was obsessed with unemployment. He considered that he was a major obstacle to the development of individuals and families. In addition to impoverishing them, he saw unemployment as the source of multiple social disorders and illnesses, both mental and physical. For Robert Dean, unemployment was a direct attack on the dignity of the Quebecers who suffered it.

This is why he welcomed with the humility and enthusiasm which characterized him the challenge entrusted to him by René Lévesque in 1984 to create a Secretariat for Employment and Consultation, a challenge that Pierre-Marc Johnson, who became Prime Minister, he repeated. He dreamed, therefore, of sectoral tables where bosses and workers’ representatives sat down together to redesign the labor market and join forces to defeat unemployment. Time has run out and surely, too, everyone’s will to do it.

Rest in peace dear Mr. Dean.

Francine The Hague
Chief of Staff to the Minister in 1984 and 1985

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