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Valley Lives - Réjean Lafrenière

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the May 11, 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Lac Ste-Marie politician, who always did it his way

by Ben Bulmer

From his humble beginnings running the family's general store in Lac-Ste-Marie to walking the corridors of power in the Quebec legislature, whatever Réjean Lafrenière did, he did it his way.

Réjean's brother, Frank Lafrenière, references the Frank Sinatra song, as well as the speeches written by Réjean's former political aid, Georges Lafontaine.

Réjean Lafrenière
Réjean Lafrenière spent over 20-years as mayor of Lac Ste-Marie as well almost two decades as a provincial MNA. He passed away April 30, 2016. Photo courtesy CBC

"George said that he wrote quite a few speeches, but Réjean never [used] one of them," said Frank, adding, "He always did it his way."

Réjean Lafrenière was born in Messines on Aug. 31, 1935. Following his studies in Mont-Laurier, Réjean managed and owned the H. Lafrenière General Store from 1956 to 1966, using his business skills to open Lac-SainteMarie Realty in 1970, a company that lasted for almost 20 years. But Réjean's real passion was politics - something Frank says was always a sense of pride for him. Réjean became mayor of Lac Ste-Marie in 1967 and kept the position for 22 years. He was also Prefect of the MRC Valléede-la-Gatineau from 1983 to 1989. He then ran for the provincial Liberal party, winning a seat in Quebec City in 1989. He was reelected in 1994, 1998, and 2003.

Frank says one of his brother's strengths was his ability to talk to everybody in the political spectrum. "When he was fighting for a cause, he knew which spring [to pull]," said Frank. "It's like playing pool, he knew what to hit."

"He'd be talking from one table to another. He wouldn't put his nose up with the position he had, he'd talk to everybody and he'd listen."

Minister Responsible for the Outaouais Stéphanie Vallée told Radio-Canada that Réjean had participated in every election campaign. Vallée said despite his age and his health, he placed posters and was always engaged.

Member of Parliament for the Pontiac Will Amos offered his condolences to Réjean's entire family and said that Réjean will be remembered by everyone who had the privilege of working with him. Amos also offered his condolences to Réjean's daughter, Fran¸oise, who currently works as an assistant to Amos.

Frank sees his brother's diplomacy as the key to all the years Réjean spent in politics - something he admits politics isn't known for. Frank said Réjean knew how to play the team and even if "the team doesn't want to pass the puck," Réjean knew he had to get possession back.

"Some people used to call him Godfather," he joked.

Réjean Lafrenière died April 30 2016, in Lac-Ste-Marie at the age of 80.


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