Earliest-elected PQ MNA Robert Burns dead at 77
Retired judge Robert Burns speaks at the launch of 'Simonne Monet Chartrand et Michel', a book about the life of Michel Chartrand in Montreal, Tuesday, March, 2, 2010.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 16, 2014 7:44PM EDT
QUEBEC - Robert Burns, who was among the first Parti Quebecois MNAs, has died at the age of 77.
The PQ issued a statement today confirming Burns' death on Thursday.
Burns is considered the father of Quebec's original law governing the financing of political parties.
He was the cabinet minister responsible for electoral reform in 1977 when Rene Levesque's government passed legislation prohibiting companies from contributing to political parties.
Burns was born to an English-speaking father and a francophone mother in Montreal and became a legal advisor to the CSN union.
He was one of seven successful PQ candidates in the 1970 election -- the first time the sovereigntist party had sent anyone to the national assembly. He won by 4,607 votes.
The PQ wanted him because they believed he could beat the RIN founder Marcel Chaput in the riding, a candidate they believed would not serve the cause well in the assembly.
Burns openly opposed leader Levesque on several occasions, such as the La Presse strike which turned into a riot. Levesque later snubbed him in favour of Jacques-Yvan Morin and yet he remained as aggressive as ever against the Liberals.
Burns contributed to the referendum law, electoral reform and permitted cameras in the National Assembly. He quit politics in 1979 for health reasons after suffering a heart attack and was replaced as house leader by Claude Charron.
One out of politics Burns correction predicted that the referendum would fail and that the PQ would be voted out of power, predictions that Levesque described in his memoirs as "a donkey kick."
Burns went on to become a judge at the Quebec Court, Labour Tribunal from 1980 until his retirement in 2001.
Burns, who represented the Maisonneuve riding, spent his last days at a palliative care centre in Boucherville.