Author of a Remarkable Law

Louis-Philippe Pigeon (1905-1986)

Louis-Philippe Pigeon occupies a unique position in the history of electricity development in Québec. As legal advisor to Premier Adélard Godbout from 1940 to 1944, he authored the remarkable legislation that created Hydro-Québec. Twenty years later (1960-1966), he was legal advisor to Premier Jean Lesage when the second phase of nationalization began and Hydro-Québec was authorized to acquire almost all the energy produced by Churchill Falls generating station in Labrador.

In drawing up the Hydro-Québec Act, Pigeon was largely inspired by the experience of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a state-owned corporation that, as American president Franklin D. Roosevelt had intended, combined government clout with private enterprise flexibility. Louis-Philippe Pigeon gave Hydro-Québec a clear mandate that left little room for interpretation. To shield Hydro-Québec from arbitrary political interference, he allowed it great autonomy in its management functions. The law establishing Hydro-Québec allotted the corporation all the financial means it required to continue its expansion without having to depend on the goodwill of the provincial government.

In 1944, Pigeon made sure that the state-owned corporation would eventually be able, with the authorization of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, to "purchase shares or other securities of any company in possession of waterpower..." This section of the Hydro-Québec Act became the keystone of the second phase of Québec's nationalization of electric power, which began in 1963.

A man of nearly legendary discretion, Pigeon ended his career as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1967 to 1980.

Louis-Philippe Pigeon

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